The Ranch For Kids Project was founded in 1994 as a 501 © (3) not for profit licensed adoption agency in the State of Wyoming. Our office in Bel Air, Maryland handles international adoption cases. Children from the ranch who are being relinquished for re-adoption are not handled by our adoption agency but by several agencies that handle domestic adoption. Joyce Sterkel founded the agency in 1994 after completing two years of work in Russia. Her work allowed her to see the plight of Russian orphans and the medical care system.
The Ranch For Kids unofficially began in 1999 a year after our Executive Director Joyce E. Sterkel adopted a Russian boy who had disrupted from two placements. Her family’s success with this child led other parents to ask for her assistance with their children. From 1999 until 2002 children came and lived on the family ranch near Eureka where the three eldest Sterkel-Sutley children had been raised. In 2003 it was decided that a separate facility with a full-time professional staff could better serve the needs of the children needing services. It was in 2002 that Hallmark Entertainment filmed a made for a television program called “Second Chances” which highlighted the lives of the three additional Russian adoptees who had been adopted by the family. This program can be seen online at; www.hallmarkchannel.com Adoption Series, Second Chances.
In the winter of 2003/2004, the Ranch For Kids Project officially moved to 3964 Indian Creek Road, four miles East of Eureka, Montana. With our full-time staff, we continued to provide services to adopted children, primarily from Russia but also including many other foreign countries as well as the U.S.A. In the summer of 2009, the Ranch for Kids Project had outgrown its one-room schoolhouse on the ranch and rented the empty school building located in Rexford, 6 miles west of Eureka. The facility included 4 classrooms, a kitchen, gymnasium and outdoor playground.
Our program has been featured in a number of local media sources as well as large metropolitan papers such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and others. We have been featured in magazines such as Newsweek, People and Time. The Ranch For Kids was the focus of a documentary that aired November 28, 2008, with ABC 20/20. In the spring of 2010, there was a flurry of media coverage about the ranch after an adoptive mother returned her child to Russia because of his behavior issues. Featured on CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, CBS Early Morning Show, CBS Evening News, ABC, Nightline, Russian State TV, Speigel (German TV) Russian Voice of America TV, the New York Times and more, the Ranch for Kids is a nationally recognized program. In the summer of 2011, we participated in filming a small documentary about the ranch itself, which is available for viewing on DVD.
The Ranch for Kids was awarded re-licensure from the State of Montana Board of Private Alternative Adolescent Residential & Outdoor Programs. The re-licensure process has been long but has allowed us to build new relationships with the state. During this time, we also consolidated our program as part of the re-licensure process, and are now all under one roof in our new facility – the Lodge at Lake Koocanusa, which was created by remodeling the Rexford School building.
The Ranch For Kids is actively working on a “next phase projects” such as raising funds to build a new facility that will house our ever-growing population
as well as a vocational school and housing that will provide for young adults who are not able to mainstream into adult life can work, study and live in a structured environment. Young adults with FASD are many times misunderstood and have a very difficult time transitioning into adult life.