Dan has been the Program Director in Pine Cottage for the past 8 years. He began his career with at-risk youth seventeen years ago while studying at University of Mary in Bismarck, ND. In his final year of college, he took a job working the overnight shift at a local residential treatment center. He had intended to pursue a career in teaching but enjoyed the work so much he stayed on to start a career in juvenile justice. Since working at the residential treatment center, Dan has also worked with the NDYCC as an Institutional Resident Counselor and as a Case Manager before taking on his current role of Program Director in Pine Cottage.
A true role model, Dan is also known to youths in the facility as “Coach” for his work as a high school football and track coach. He has always enjoyed teaching and coaching youths. He rises to the challenge of trying to help youths and finds it most rewarding to build positive relationships with the youths in his care. Dan says he is motivated by “innovation and the idea of evolving approaches to working with the youth in our care.” He uses PbS to model all of his unit improvement plans. He said they are currently focusing on reducing the use of restraints and room confinement.
Dan has been an instrumental part of transitioning the ideology and practices of the secure unit on campus, Pine Cottage, from an isolation-based to a more trauma-informed model. Dan and his team have changed the framework with their program to help youths on a more individualized basis, and Pine Cottage now manages all of the high security, high risk, and volatile mental health population in addition to the Assessment and Detention programs.
Rick Makelky, the Quality Assurance Manager with NDYCC, said “Dan’s calm and patient demeanor in working with the most difficult kids really sets the tone for all of those who observe him.” Dan was nominated for this honor on behalf of the facility, and “also on behalf of the many young men that have entered Pine Cottage scared, confused and angry and left feeling safe, respected and having hope.”
In 20 years, Dan sees himself living a similar life. When he retires, he intends to continue coaching and his favorite recreational activity of fishing.
Thank you Dan for your commitment to treating all youths in custody as one of our own and congratulations on being the PbS Person of the Month for August 2015!
- Written by Patricia Rafferty