The Yellowstone Conference: Kids in Crisis

Celebrating 60 Years of Leadership and Creating Positive Outcomes for At-Risk Children and Youth in Montana

Save the Date for September 21, 2017, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch has reached 60 years of working to improve the lives of At-Risk Children and Youth in Montana.  As part of our celebration of this legacy of caring, we are hosting a conference focused on improving outcomes for kids and families in Montana.  Named The Yellowstone Conference: Kids in Crisis, the event will focus on promoting effective solutions to the problems facing our state’s most vulnerable young people, and provide a forum for mental health practitioners, education staff and law enforcement to exchange ideas – and to celebrate the efforts of those who are on the front lines developing and implementing solutions.

Based upon Georgetown University’s LEAD (Leadership, Evidence, Analysis, Debate) Conference, the conference is designed to be both interactive and informative.  During the conference, dedicated and knowledgeable professionals from a variety of governmental and organizations from around Montana will provide insight on the current challenges facing Montana youth, as well as introduce promising practices.

Through a lens of trauma informed practice and a focus on outcome measurement, the conference will provide opportunities to learn and engage on the following topics affecting Montana youth:

  • Youth Suicide
  • Social Media and Bullying
  • Co-Occurring Disorders / Dual Diagnosis
  • Funding Challenges and Opportunities

Eric Arzubi, MD, Chair of the Billings Clinic Department of Psychiatry and is President of the Big Sky Regional Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry will be providing the keynote address at the end of the day, summarizing the event.

Afterwards, there will be a reception celebrating YBGR’s 60 years of caring.

Fee for conference is $25.00, which includes conference, lunch, and reception.

Register here


Mike Chavers, CEO of Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch

Foster Care Pre-Service in Livingston

(Livingston, Mont.) May 15, 2017 – Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) in Livingston will be hosting pre-service training during the months of May and June for individuals interested in becoming therapeutic foster parents. These are free evenings for Livingston and surrounding area families to learn initial information on foster care, begin the training process, meet YBGR’s team of professionals and enjoy dinner.

The dates are May 30, and June 1, 6, and 8, from 6 – 10 p.m. at YBGR’s Livingston office, located at 5237 Hwy 89 South, Suite 1, Livingston, MT 59047. All four trainings must be attended.  For more information on these trainings, or to learn about foster care, call Tracey Lujan at 406-222-6490, e-mail, or e-mail Charise Lemelin at


Pint Night Fundraiser to Benefit YBGR Dillon

(Dillon, Mont.) May 11, 2017 – One of Dillon’s Pint Night Fundraisers will benefit Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch’s (YBGR) Dillon Community Based Services (CBS) program. The June 2 event is free, open to the public and kid friendly.

Lemelin stands next to YBGR’s Dillon office.

Charise Lemelin, YBGR’s Dillon Clinical Director, said she is ecstatic about receiving the “go-ahead” for the event. She said that they’d like to use the donations raised for underfunded needs affecting Dillon’s services.

“Our biggest needs right now are office space and vehicles, and funds as we move forward with foster care,” she said.

Event Details: June 2, from 4 – 10 p.m. The 200 block of South Montana Street will close to traffic. The event will begin at 4:30 p.m., with family-friendly games at Depot Park. At 6 p.m., guests can purchase food, drinks and hear live music inside Beaverhead Brewing Company. One dollar for every drink the brewery sells, as well as proceeds from the Branding Iron’s barbeque sales, will be donated to YBGR Dillon’s CBS program.

So, visit downtown Dillon, Friday evening, June 2, for a night to support the cause of helping kids and families!

Honeybees Arrive as Ranch Starts New Beekeeping Program

It’s been 60 years since Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) opened its doors to troubled kids and over 40 since it changed from the Ranch to a treatment facility. But farm work has always been a cornerstone of life at the Ranch.

In the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s “there were limitless chores to do, including everything from gardening, to caring for the animals, to helping out in the kitchen, to lending a hand on the various construction projects that always seemed underway” wrote YBGR founder Franklin Robbie in his book, “A Legacy of Caring.” But lately, in addition to working with cattle, horses, and testing their green thumbs, the Ranch’s kids are farming honeybees.

Jim Klempel teaches three YA Day School boys how to tend to one of the program’s honeybee hives.

Yellowstone Academy’s (YA) bee program, new this spring, is run by vocational education teacher Jim Klempel. Klempel said he has been hoping to start a bee program for over 10 years and is happy to see it happen. With eight hives to fill, Klempel set off in late April to pick up his first batch of bees from Fort Shaw’s Treasure State Honey, a family-owned beekeeping business. Klempel has filled two beehives with this batch and, in mid-May, will travel a short trip from Billings to Sunshine Apiary in Columbus, Mont. to pick up the rest, which will fill four more hives.

Klempel explained that the kids in his program have been preparing for their new flying friends by helping to assemble the bee boxes, painting them and situating them in a small, Ranch-owned field.

Klempel joked that he has learned most of what he knows from YouTube, but he has been researching their care and behaviors, and educating YBGR kids about honeybees since last winter. By the end of this summer, the kids will understand the fundamentals of beekeeping, such as how to prepare their hives, feed them, and understand the social system of bees.

Once Klempel’s second bee batch arrives, he said they will have nearly 4000 bees, a number that will grow to more than 15,000 at summer’s end.

But it won’t be until next year that the Ranch’s kids get to taste the sweet fruit of their labors. Klempel said that although the bees will begin producing honey this summer, that honey will stay in the hive for the bees to eat during winter. Next summer, kids will learn to extract the honey from the hives’ combs and will sell it to the public.

The beekeeping program teaches kids a useful trade that can help them further their employment opportunities after they graduate or once they leave the Ranch. The kids learn how to nurture and care for another living organism—the hive. Caring for the hive also allows the kids to understand the relationship that the nucs, worker bees, and the queen bee have to maintain.

“The bees provide an avenue for YBGR staff to engage youth in discussions about relationships and interactions, which promotes self-awareness and reinforces other therapeutic interventions that youth receive at YBGR,” said Mike Chavers, YBGR’s CEO.

Klempel said that the class has to keep a close watch on the hives when they introduce the two groups to see whether they are interacting positively. They will also watch the queen bees when they are integrated into the hives, because if the worker bees reject the queen, they’ll harm her.

He said the kids will help split two of the hives to make two more, filling all eight hives. The kids will monitor the behavior of the bees during the transition.

Two boys refill water and smoke the hives, a technique used to calm the bees.

Klempel and the kids’ favorite thing to do is watch the bees. He and his class will put on bee suits or coveralls and trek across Hesper Road, down the winding grass path, and up to the field to observe the bees buzzing around.

Still in the process of setting up, Klempel said that, at one point, 30 bees we’re trying to squish through a hole the size of a thumb, so he’s cut one larger. He said the bees are not bothered by their visits, but if kids start waving their hands around or interrupting them, they might get stung.

“It’s a quick lesson in respecting Mother Nature,” Klempel said. “No one likes the pinch of a bee sting.”

The bee operation is one of many vocational education specialties at the Ranch that teach youth technical and trade skills. Others include welding, woodworking, arts and crafts, pottery, gardening, and small machining.

To learn more about how integrating vocational programs into behavioral treatment and juvenile justice programs impacts the outcomes of youth, visit the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention or see a report at

Yellowstone Academy has a K-12 program accredited through AdvancED and a K-8 elementary district accredited through Montana’s Office of Public Instruction. YA is located on Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch’s residential campus, a nonprofit organization trusted nationally as a leader in the field of mental health care for children and their families.

YBGR in the News

Did you have the chance to see Mike Chavers, YBGR’s CEO, and Jennifer Reiser, the Billings Chamber of Commerce’s COO, live, on air with KTVQ’s Ed McIntosh? The trio discussed this Friday’s upcoming Billings Chamber of Commerce’s annual Agriculture Tour, in which the Ranch will host breakfast.

Inside the Ranch’s Equestrian Arena, tour members will get a hearty pancake and egg breakfast served with coffee and orange juice, along with a horse therapy demonstration from the Ranch’s EAGALA-certified equine specialist, and the chance to check out hand-made items from YBGR’s Vocational and Agriculture program.

Ticket sales are closed, but to learn more about the Ag Tour and other stops this year, check out:


YBGR Hires New Executive Director of Residential Services

(Billings, Mont.) May 4, 2017 – Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) has a new executive director of residential services, Dr. Taylor Mayer. Mayer, though new to his position, is not new to YBGR. He began his career in the field of mental healthcare with the Ranch more than 23 years ago, and since, has acquired a lengthy professional portfolio in the field of counseling and psychology.

Taylor Mayer, Ph.D., is YBGR’s new executive director of residential services

Mayer first joined YBGR in December 1993 as a Mental Health Worker after he completed his undergraduate degree In Psychology at the University of Montana. He obtained his graduate degree in Rehabilitation Counseling at Montana State University – Billings in 1994 and continued as a therapist at YBGR. Mayer completed a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2005 from Walden University and, in 2011, transferred to YBGR’s Community Based Services to the role of Regional Area Clinical Supervisor.

After leaving YBGR in December 2014, he returned in the role of Executive Director of Residential Services in 2017. He is licensed as a Professional Counselor in Montana and Wyoming, and he is a Diplomate of the American Psychotherapy Association.


YBGR in the News

Photo by Casey Page, Billings Gazette Staff

YBGR therapeutic foster parents, the Fowlers, embarked on a lifelong journey after choosing to become foster parents to two siblings.  Click here to read The Billings Gazette’s touching article on their experience with YBGR foster care.




An Enduring Legacy of Faith, Hope and Love

This past weekend, Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) shared an eventful experience that will not soon be forgotten. Generous donors of the Yellowstone Foundation joined together in support of YBGR’s Spiritual Life Program for an event to celebrate the Ranch’s 60 year legacy of faith, hope and love.

View a video of the Spiritual Life Program below and read more on the Yellowstone Foundation’s website:



YBGR Consulted for National Juvenile Justice Policy Recommendations

(Billings, Mont.) April 25, 2017 – Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) has been asked for advice on national policy regarding juvenile justice. Regularly, the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice (FACJJ) consults organizations such as YBGR and the National Center for Youth Law to compile research, findings, and guidance which are consolidated and reported to the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention, and subsequently the President of the United States and Congress.

“It’s a great success for YBGR to be recognized as a national leader in the field of children’s mental health and juvenile justice,” said Mike Chavers, YBGR’s CEO.

Through a phone conference on April 21, Chavers presented to the FACJJ about juvenile justice and child welfare, detailing his recommendations, based upon experience in the field and knowledge of the juvenile justice system. Chavers discussed his previous work in the state of Illinois, his implementation of youth and community engagement approaches and the current work of YBGR to implement a coordinated continuum of services to obtain sustainable positive outcomes for youth.

He discussed the importance of educational and vocational training for youth, which has shown to significantly improve long-term outcomes and mitigate the costs of incarceration or other forms of support or welfare. He also emphasized the implementation of collaborative trainings and education on an ongoing basis, and increased enumeration for direct-care staff who work with youth.

Chavers input was well-received by the advisers and law practitioners that make up the FACJJ. Additionally, he was asked to continue communication and feedback as they look to develop and advance juvenile justice approaches and strategies on a federal level.

More information of the FACJJ and their Annual Reports can be found at:


Empowered to Connect Conference Live Simulcast

(Livingston, Mont.) April 4, 2017 – Livingston and surrounding area, join us this weekend, April 7 and 8, 2017 for the Empowered to Connect Conference Live Simulcast, hosted by YBGR in partnership with Child Bridge, Montana. In an effort to help equip families, churches and professionals to better serve children impacted by foster care and adoption, the conference will focus on the “Trust-Based Relational Intervention” methods as developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. Davis Cross from the TCU Institute of Child Development.

The event will be held at the Livingston Christian Center, 1400 Mount Baldy Drive in Livingston, MT 59047, Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8 from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. There will be a break for lunch on your own each day with an optional half-hour discussion time following lunch.

Workbooks for the Conference should be printed ahead of time by each participant from a link that will be provided to all who register.

To register or get further information, contact the Livingston office at 406-222-6492, or e-mail or

Check out the event at:

Learn more about Child Bridge here: