COVID-19 and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's stay-at-home order have kept parents from visiting their children at the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch between Laurel and Billings.
But technology has brought them together and helped them through the program.
"We have been able to use the Zoom platform in order to keep our youth connected with their families,” said Jasmine Hansen, public relations coordinator for the ranch. “So they can still see them and have the conversations even when they can't visit each other in person."
Hansen said the ranch helps youth handle mental issues and technology has been part of the therapy and treatment.
“We've been utilizing Zoom for families for about three years,” she said. “But due to the COVID crisis, we got tablets for all of the lodges, so instead of just those phone calls, they can also chat with mom and dad land see them and not just wait for those therapy sessions."
Parents aren't able to visit the students as often. In the past, students have called their parents on the phone, and just talked with them. But now with Zoom, they're able to see the faces and the emotion and hear the intonations.
"Sometimes there's so much more to communication than just the words you're saying or the tone you're saying it in,” Hansen said. “Your facial expressions and body movements can translate that message. So now they can kind of understand that better. It just helps improve those communication skills.”
The kids and the families like using Zoom.
“The kids are opening up a lot more because they're understanding more,” said Hansen. “And they're able to interpret those other emotions. The parents enjoy seeing their kids as well."
The success of Zoom may bring more opportunities to use technology.
“We're going to just continue to adapt and try to be on the cutting edge so as things change, we can adapt rapidly and kind of set that standard for those kind of communication.”
Hansen said the students are also using Zoom to meet for chapel services and the ranch's Young Life Club.
Zoom Video Communications, Inc. states its platform "provides video meetings, voice, webinars, and chat across desktops, phones, mobile devices, and conference room systems."