Officials at Sky Ranch for Boys announced Wednesday that the group care center for troubled teens will cease operations in the next few months.
A statement issued by the center's executive director Jodi Duttenhoffer cites an industry shift away from the center's style of residential treatment and toward a less expensive community-based alternative as the reason for the closure.
"The Ranch is currently caring for less than 20 boys (down from 40 a few years ago) and that number is expected to decline sharply in the weeks ahead as states implement new budget policies. Although exacerbated by the recession, this does not appear to be a short-term trend," according to the statement.
Located in Harding County near Camp Crook, Sky Ranch for Boys is a more than 3,000-acre facility licensed by the South Dakota Department of Social Services to take boys aged 10 to 18. The state also recognizes the on-site school as an educational provider that focuses on behavioral problems, according to the center's website.
The center began in 1960 under the guidance of Rev. Don Murray, a Catholic priest, who died in a plane crash with one of the boys in 1975. In the early 1980s, the center was run by its first lay executive director, Scott Louks, according to the Sky Ranch Foundation website.
The foundation owns the ranch and its supporters, primarily associated with the alcohol beverage industry, contributed more than $20 million in the past 50 years to help the ranch. The foundation provided the facility and 25 percent to 30 percent of the annual operating budget of Sky Ranch since shortly after the foundation was established in 1961, according to the statement.
The foundation was consulted on the decision to close the center and alternatives were considered before the decision was made. The foundation pledged to help care for the remaining boys until the program ends and will help the Sky Ranch board of directors in assisting the center's employees.
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After the closure of the ranch, the foundation plans to continue helping troubled youth by offering grants to programs across the country, according to the statement.
"The decision to close Sky Ranch was extremely difficult for all concerned. For 50 years this program has been helping kids who others had given up on. We believe the positive spirit of Sky Ranch deserves to continue and to guide us in our efforts to help those in need," said foundation president, Ralph Aguera in the statement. "Our goal is to continue and expand the great legacy of Sky Ranch by supporting the very best programs for troubled girls and boys nationwide."
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