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red-vs-blue-raising-funds-to-help-familiesTeam Red vs. Team Blue: Competition Raising Funds to Help Iowa Families Iowa
FD high fives kids
Tuesday, Apr 11, 2017

This article is written by Krystal Sidzyik. It was posted April 4, 2017 on

It's a battle for the ages.

In one corner: The Council Bluffs Police Department. representing Team Blue. In the other corner: The Council Bluffs Fire Department, representing Team Red.

The competition: To see who can collect the most hygiene and household products to benefit Boys Town Iowa.

Will the fire department retain their bragging rights and traveling trophy this year or will the police department snag the win?

This is the second year Boys Town Iowa has teamed up with local organizations and schools to host the competition that will benefit area families.

Last year, nine barrels were placed at different sites in the community, collecting 2,000 pounds of household and hygiene products — which is the equivalent of a fully-grown polar bear.

This year, more than 50 barrels have been placed in the community at 30 different sites. More information on drop box locations can be found online at

Organizations participating this year include Google, Mercy Hospital, Jennie Edmundson Hospital, Iowa Western Community College and 11 schools from the Council Bluffs and Lewis Central Community School Districts.

A representative of Team Red, Hoover Elementary hosted a kick-off event Friday morning during a school assembly.

Fifth-grade students in the talented and gifted program helped organize the event, dressing as different hygiene products and performing a skit on stage to help garner support and excitement from other students about the competition.

"This project encompassed creativity and put them out of their comfort zone," said Rhonda Leffler, TAG curriculum specialist. "It's an opportunity that they wouldn't have had otherwise."

Students will collect products all month. The class that collects the most will be awarded an extra recess. Students will also wear red on Fridays in support of the event.

"I think it's a great idea," said Dave Andersen with the fire department. "It's good public awareness and helps with the community."

Items needed include shampoo, conditioner, unscented deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, lotion, disposable razors, toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex, laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaners, glass cleaner, rags and sponges, buckets, dishwasher detergent, bathroom cleaners, sanitizer, diapers and baby wipes, baby bottles and sippy cups, childproofing accessories, bug bombs and ant traps. Items donated must be full-size, new and unopened.

Boys Town Iowa serves more than 1,000 families and more than 2,000 children every year. The organization helps families and parents experiencing poverty by donating basic need items like hygiene and cleaning supplies to area families.

"Many of our families are suffering from drug addiction or alcohol abuse," said Patrick Garcia, community engagement developer for Boys Town Iowa. "In order to provide appropriate parenting to children — when we're helping families learn those skills — we also help them to have the products available to help keep the children safe and healthy."

The competition will continue through April. A winner will be announced during a celebration from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 4 at the Boys Town Iowa office, 1702 W. Broadway, Suite 17.

The celebration will be open to the public, and food and refreshments will be provided. A fire truck, police cruisers and the K-9 unit will be at the event.

"It's pretty neat to see how the community actually got behind this," Garcia said. "This week, more than 190 shirts will be delivered to community members and on the back it says, 'A community that makes a difference,' and I truly believe that's what happened this year."

boys-town-a-beacon-of-hope-for-troubled-youthBoys Town: A Beacon of Hope for Troubled YouthIowa
Thursday, Dec 29, 2016

​​​​​​​This story aired on CBS Sunday Morning and was posted on on December 25, 2016.

"There's no place like home." Rarely is that truer than this time of year. Our Christmas Cover Story is all about a very special home for some very needy children, as reported by Tony Dokoupil:

Right near the midpoint of America, ten miles outside of Omaha, Nebraska, there's a town that sits between childhood and whatever comes after.

"These young people are about to become citizens of the most famous village in the world," said Father Stephen Boes at a swearing-in ceremony.

In this town, almost every kid is at a crossroads -- and the goal of all the grown-ups here is to help kids leave Boys Town behind.

"I do solemnly promise … that I will be a good citizen."

Eighteen-year-old Chase Pruss, from Dodge, Neb., was sworn in here six months ago --  arriving, like a lot of the kids, straight from jail.

"I took the school safe," he said.  "Just for money. For Beer money. And gas money. And buy cigarettes."

Two more break-ins followed, and Pruss ended up arrested in front of his bewildered parents. "My mom was crying, my dad was crying," he said.

He had run through four different schools, stolen and lied.

And he faced 80 years in prison, ​until a judge helped get him into Boys Town. "I ​​had that mindset of, "I never want to ever ​put myself in the position where I could land myself back in an orange jumpsuit," Pruss said. "I never ​wanted my ​jail ID ​number to say ​who I was."

Andre Harris (right) in class at Boys Town. CBS News

Seventeen-year-old Andre Harris came to Boys Town the same way.  Nearly three years ago, back in Amarillo, Texas, he stole a car, and ended up in juvenile detention.

"I didn't feel like I was gonna amount to anything after that," he told Dokoupil.  

Frankly, he didn't think he'd amount to much before jail, either. College seemed out of reach. He can't remember hearing someone say they were proud of him.

Dokoupil said of Boys Town, "More felons per capita here than any town in Nebraska."

"Probably!" Harris laughed. "But we're all doing our best to change."

Almost every week here at Boys Town, new boys (and since 1979, new girls, too) are sent by social workers, judges and desperate parents. Most of the kids have been unable to live anywhere else without getting in trouble.

And Boys Town is their last chance.

"A lot of people would say they're bad kids," Dokoupil said. "Is that how they see themselves when they get here?"

"Some of our kids do," replied Tony Jones, one of Boys Town's "family teachers." "They see themselves as, you know, on the bottom of the totem pole."

And how do they change that mindset? "You show them that this is your decision. This is your life."

Jones and his wife, Simone, run one of 55 homes on campus. Eight Boys Town children live there like a family, alongside the Jones' three biological kids.

"Every single young man that has come through my home has now become a part of my family," Jones said.

This is a large part of what makes Boys Town so powerful; all 360 kids living here have paid Boys Town parents like Tony and Simone.

"It's a professional, full-time Dad, brother, uncle, cousin -- whatever my boys may need me to be at that particular time in their life, that, then, is who I become for them," Jones said.

Tony Jones and his wife, Simone, and three children share their home with eight Boys Town students. CBS News​

He began at Boys Town as a boy himself. He was born to a shattered family in Detroit. "I can recall my brother and I standing at a bus stop, and it was in the dead of winter. And we only had one pair of socks to share between the two us," Jones laughed.

But then a priest gave the Jones brothers a chance to change their lives at Boys Town. "It was a total transformation," he said.

Dokoupil asked, "Where do you think you would be if you had said no to Boys Town?"

"Oh, two places: I would either be incarcerated, or I would be dead."

Father Edward Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. CBS News

The Jones story is typical of a hundred years of stories at Boys Town, which began in 1917 as Father Flanagan's Home for Boys. The most beloved clergyman in America, he created arguably the most famous reform school in the world.

Of his charges, Father Flanagan said, "His bruised and tortured heart and mind must be nursed back to normal health through kindness."

You may remember a 1938-Oscar winning movie about the place starring Spencer Tracy. But what you probably don't know is it's a real town, with a real post office and police department.

At about $65,000 per student per year, Boys Town is comparable to a top private college -- and it's mostly taxpayers footing the bill.

But taxpayers pay for prisons, too -- more than $39 billion a year nationally. Boys Town says it can help keep those prison cells empty, while nearly doubling the chance that these students will graduate from high school.

Dokoupil asked Jones, "How do you avoid coming in and being just another person telling them all the things they're doing wrong?"

"By telling them all the things they're doing right," Jones replied. "That's how you help kids change. It's being able to say, 'Hey, young man, you did a good job this morning getting up.'"

"It almost sounds like a joke."

"Well, you know something? That little praise goes a long way."

That little praise goes all the way back to Father Flanagan's ​founding idea: "There are no bad boys."

And if that all sounds too pat to be successful … well, the results say otherwise.

When asked where he would be without Boys Town, Chase Pruss replied, "I'd be in lockup." As did another.

And if that all sounds too pat to be successful, just listen to the results. Tesharr said, "I've been here for a short amount of time. But since my first day I didn't feel like I was in a place where I couldn't leave. I felt like I was home."

Of course, the Boys Town way does not work for every child who comes here; there are failures. But for Chase's parents, Dan and Trish, it's been nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

Dokoupil asked them, "Who was Chase before Boys Town and who is he today?"

"He was dishonest, disrespectful, a thief," said his mother. "And now he is the Chase that I always wanted him to be."

For Andre Harris, the change has been no less dramatic since stealing that car. "It's not even the same person," he said.

And how is he different? "My actions, the way I speak. I've grown up. I've become a young man."

He's a school leader now … a star on the track team … and he's just found out he's headed to college next year.

But first, he's headed to Amarillo for the holidays … a place he hasn't seen in nearly three years. It's a place that Boys Town has been preparing him for since the very day he made his grand theft exit:

It's home.

"This is my Christmas gift," Robert Harris told Dokoupil. "This is all I wanted!"

Andre Harris is welcomed by neighbors back home in Amarillo, Texas. CBS News
addict-to-advocate-relishes-roleFrom Addict to Advocate, This Mom Relishes Role as MentorIowa
(Front, left to right) Kailee and Jada; (Back, left to right) Jennifer, Jeanette and Isaiah
Wednesday, Dec 28, 2016

​Her first experience with methamphetamines happened when she was just a teen. That encounter launched what would become a debilitating relationship that shadowed her life for years.

Jeanette dabbled in drugs throughout early adulthood, only stopping when she became a mom. Raising three children offered enough distraction and motivation to keep her sober. But drugs were never far away.

When Jeanette's marriage soured, she returned to meth and spiraled into addiction.   

Alarmed by her condition, a relative contacted the Iowa Department of Human Services. The children were immediately removed from the home, and the family was referred to Boys Town Iowa In-Home Family Services® for support and counseling.

When Boys Town services began, Jeanette was defensive and dishonest.

"I was anything but easy in the beginning," remembered Jeanette. "I was still in my addiction and didn't think people should be invading my space."

Overcoming Jeanette's manipulations and suspicions took patience and effort. Boys Town Family Consultant Jennifer Everman-Kelley met weekly with the family, supervising Jeanette's visits with her children, listening to everyone's concerns and showing compassion without judgement.

Jennifer spent much of her time preparing the children – Isaiah, Jada and Kailee – for family reunification. Jennifer taught the siblings safety skills and safety planning so they would know what to do and who to call if any situation became confusing or threatening.

As for Jeanette, Jennifer gave her the resources, encouragement and confidence to "change playgrounds."​

"Jeanette needed to get away from hurtful relationships and bad environments that endangered her recovery and instead surround herself with a sober-support network," explained Jennifer​

council-bluffs-office-moving-locationsCouncil Bluffs Office Moving LocationsIowa
Monday, Dec 5, 2016

​​​​​​​​​​​​Boys Town Iowa staff in Council Bluffs will be moving to a new office on December 19th!

We will move our Council Bluffs operations to a new ​​​location at 1702 West Broadway, ​Suite 17, ​​​Council Bluffs, IA 51501.  Phone ​​​numbers will change on that date also. 

Main Number712-302-7900
Debbie Orduna712-302-7901
Jessica Bothwell712-302-7902
Gina Bullard712-302-7903
Debbie Carnes712-302-7904
Jane Drake712-302-7905
Lacy Dube712-302-7906
Sonya Fittje712-302-7907
Pat Garcia712-302-7908
Chris Jackson712-302-7909
Carli Wiese712-302-7911
Carrie Ausdemore712-302-7912

Thank you for your patience if we are slow to get back to you on the 19th.  ​

united-states-mint-unveils-designs-for-boys-town-centennial-commemorative-coinsUnited States Mint Unveils Designs for Boys Town Centennial Commemorative CoinsCalifornia, Iowa
Wednesday, Aug 24, 2016

​​​This press release was published on August 23, 2016.

Designs for coins commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Boys Town were unveiled today during a ceremony at Boys Town Music Hall in Boys Town, Neb.

"Each time a person looks at any one of these unique designs, it will spark an interest in learning about the history of Boys Town, acknowledging the extraordinary efforts made by this organization to give comfort and purpose to children in need, and recognizing the significant contributions of Father Flanagan," said United States Mint Principal Deputy Director Rhett Jeppson.

Jeppson was joined by Boys Town​ representatives Cordell Cade and Kymani Bell, mayor and vice mayor, respectively; Dan Daly, Executive Vice President, Director of ​Youth Care; and Jerry Davis, Vice President of Advocacy.

Public Law 114-30 authorizes the Mint to mint and issue no more than 50,000 $5 gold, 350,000 $1 silver, and 300,000 half dollar clad coins with designs emblematic of the centennial of Boys Town. 

The gold coin obverse (heads) features a portrait of Father Flanagan.  Inscriptions include "BOYS TOWN CENTENNIAL," "IN GOD WE TRUST," "FR. EDWARD FLANAGAN," "LIBERTY," and "2017."  The obverse was designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) Designer Donna Weaver and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart.

The gold coin reverse (tails) features an outstretched hand holding a young oak tree growing from an acorn.  As ​stated in the idiom "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow," this design represents the potential of each child helped by Boys Town to grow into a productive, complete adult.  Inscriptions include "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "THE WORK WILL CONTINUE," "FIVE DOLLARS," and "E PLURIBUS UNUM."  The reverse was also designed by Weaver and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Jim Licaretz.

The silver $1 coin obverse features a young girl sitting alone and gazing upward into the branches of an oak tree looking for help.  The empty space around the girl is deliberate and meant to show the child's sense of loneliness, isolation, and helplessness.  Inscriptions include "BOYS TOWN," "When you help a child today...," "IN GOD WE TRUST," "LIBERTY," and "1917-2017."

The obverse was designed by AIP Designer Emily Damstra and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna. 

The coin's reverse features an oak tree offering shelter and a sense of belonging to the family holding hands below it, which includes the girl from the obverse.  Inscriptions include " write the history of tomorrow," "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "ONE DOLLAR," and "E PLURIBUS UNUM."  The reverse was also designed by Damstra and sculpted by Menna.

The clad half dollar obverse features an older brother holding the hand of his younger brother in 1917.  They walk toward Father Flanagan's Boys Home and the 1940s pylon representing what would become Boys Town.  Inscriptions include "BOYS TOWN," "1917," "2017," "IN GOD WE TRUST," "LIBERTY," and "Saving Children."  The obverse was designed by AIP Designer Chris Costello and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Renata Gordon.

The coin's reverse features a present-day Boys Town neighborhood of homes where children are schooled and nurtured by caring families.  Out of these homes come young adults who graduate from high school and the Boys Town program.  Inscriptions include "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM," "Healing Families," and "HALF DOLLAR."  The reverse was also designed by Costello and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill.

Pricing for the Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coins will include surcharges-$35 for each $5 gold coin, $10 for each $1 silver coin, and $5 for each half dollar clad coin-which are authorized to be paid to Boys Town to carry out its cause of caring for and assisting children and families in underserved communities across America.

The Mint will announce the release date and additional pricing information for the Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coins prior to their release in 2017.

boys-town-iowa-in-home-family-services-supervisor-heads-to-central-florida-to-assistBoys Town Iowa In-Home Family Services Supervisor Heads to Central Florida to AssistCentral Florida
Monday, Aug 15, 2016

​​​At the end of June, Keely Heitland, Sioux City’s In-Home Family Services Supervisor, traveled to Central Florida to assist the site’s In-Home Family Services (IHFS) program while their supervisor, Erica Vagle, is on maternity leave.

“I was excited to volunteer,” Heitland said. “I was intrigued by the idea to observe another site and how they deliver IHFS using the Boys Town Model."

While in Florida, Heitland has a similar role as she does in Iowa. She is supervising four consultants, providing consultation and support, as well as attending intakes and visits for observations to ensure quality services are provided.

“One of the things we say about using evidence-based practices is that our model should be replicable, which means that whether you are in Iowa or Central Florida, we should be using the same interventions and strategies and our hallmarks and model elements should be clearly consistent across the services we offer,” Bethany Lacey, Director, In-Home Family Services, Boys Town Central Florida, said.

”Having someone like Keely step in temporarily to fill our need has been a huge asset,” Lacey said. “She may not be familiar with all nuances of Central Florida, but she knows the model and she knows families and staff. A family in need is a family in need no matter where they live.” 

It has long been common practice for Boys Town to share staff between Family Home and Intervention and Assessment Centers.

“If one site is low on staff, it often happens that another site will send staff to help out,” Lacey said.

However, it isn’t as common for In-Home Family Services. Lacey’s hope is that what they’ve accomplished can be replicated and that other sites can use the lessons they’ve learned on how to organize such an experience.

Heitland also attends internal and external meetings in Vagle’s place, which “has allowed me to learn about other programs to assist Iowa in developing their site.”

Central Florida has a smaller IHFS program but offers more services within the continuum of care. The biggest difference Heitland has encountered is the “application of [the in-home services]” and how it “takes in consideration the many different consumers, grants and contractors” the site is working with.

“Florida’s programs are more preventative versus reactive,” she said, citing an example of working with families before they are court involved. “Florida also has the ability to provide multiple services within the Boys Town continuum and does well linking them.”

“I have enjoyed further learning about and observing the services within the continuum and hope to bring this knowledge back to Iowa to assist us in further grants and contracts,” she said.

spencer-office-moves-to-larger-locationSpencer Office Moves to Larger LocationIowa
Monday, Jul 11, 2016

​​The Boys ​Town office in Spencer, Iowa is approaching its five year anniversary since its opening in 2011. The office opened its doors in early July 2011 and during their first year, they were able to serve a total of 29 families and 61 youth. Since its opening, the office has continued to grow in the number of children and families they serve within the Spencer community and surrounding communities with 93 percent of the children they serve remaining in their homes.

“Over the past five years, the Boys Town Spencer Iowa office has established presence within the community as a high-quality family service provider,” In-Home Family Services Supervisor, CJ Bauman said. “We have built our knowledge base on services provided to families within the community.”

The office is moving to a larger office to accommodate the growing number of families they serve. This move will provide the office with additional space to conduct valuable employee meetings and to serve more families.

The new office is located in a neighborhood setting and CJ Bauman hopes this will help build their already established community relationships. “Consumers and client surveys have been very positive,” Bauman said. “The new move into a residential setting allows us the opportunity to really make our presence known in the neighborhood.”

In honor of its five year anniversary and new office space, the Spencer, Iowa office is hosting an open house. The open house will serve as an opportunity to invite community members into the office and educate them on the services they provide while building valuable relationships.

Congrats to the Spencer, Iowa office on five years of serving children and families!

firefighters-top-police-in-council-bluffs-drive-to-help-boys-townFirefighters Top Police in Council Bluffs Drive to Help Boys TownIowa
Tuesday, Jul 5, 2016

​​This article is written by Derek Sullivan of the World-Herald News Service. It was posted on on July 3, 2016.

The Council Bluffs Fire Department got bragging rights, the Council Bluffs Police Department got a roll of toilet paper and needy families in western Iowa received more than 2,000 pounds of household goods.

On Friday at Boys Town Iowa, local firefighters and police officers found out who won a monthlong contest between the two groups. Throughout June, the two agencies had drop boxes throughout Council Bluffs asking local residents to donate household goods to the families who work with Boys Town Iowa.

The fire department collected 1,109.5 pounds of household goods, roughly 110 more pounds than the police department.

Officer Jill Knotek, who represented police at the weigh-in, accepted the runner-up trophy, which consisted of a roll of toilet paper on a 6-inch pedestal.

“I’m definitely disappointed, but we gave them a run for their money,” Knotek said. “We worked very hard, but it’s OK because everyone wins in this scenario.”

Council Bluffs Assistant Fire Chief Jim Wheat said everyone in the fire department enjoys the running competitions with the police department and enjoys giving back to the citizens of Council Bluffs.

“We’ve got a lot of service-oriented guys,” Wheat said. “Council Bluffs is our community, too, and there are lots of stuff we can do to help the community.”

During the contest, local residents were asked to donate household items such as shampoo and conditioner, soap, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste, toilet paper and laundry detergent.

Debbie Orduna, director of Boys Town Iowa, said she was shocked by the amount of donated items. She said it took more than two hours to weigh everything, and items kept arriving throughout Friday.

“It’s wonderful because there is a significant need. Many people take these items for granted,” she said. “The cost of those items can add up, and most of the families we are working with are dealing with poverty. To provide these items to families helps them keep their utilities on and helps make sure their rent or house payment is made.”

Boys Town Iowa helps families in 30 western Iowa counties, but the household items collected are expected to be handed out to families in Council Bluffs.

business-helps-cbpd-cbfd-collect-items-for-boys-townBusiness helps CBPD, CBFD collect items for Boys TownIowa
Rick Benson, EMS Division Chief for the CBFD, left, and Dale Schmitz, community affairs officer for the CBPD.
Monday, Jun 27, 2016

​​This article is written by Derek Sullivan. It was posted on on June 21, 2016.

The Heritage at Fox Run wanted to do something to help Council Bluffs police officers and Council Bluffs firefighters in their quest to donate hundreds of household items to Boys Town Iowa.

Lacy Jungman, director of sales and marketing for Heritage, said working with the community was the best solution.

All this week, anyone who tours the assisted living facility can decide whether the Council Bluffs Police Department or Council Bluffs Fire Department gets $10 worth of household goods, purchased by Heritage at Fox Run for an ongoing competition between the departments.

In June, the two agencies are collecting household goods, such as cleaning supplies and hygienic products, for Boys Town Iowa.

Boys Town Iowa helps families in 30 western Iowa counties, but the contest between the police and fire departments, called the Boys Town Iowa Drive, will make life easier for Council Bluffs families, said Debbie Orduna, director of Iowa operations.

Boys Town Iowa officials will name the winner of the contest and the amount of household goods collected on July 1.

Each department has six collection boxes located throughout Council Bluffs at the police station, fire department stations, local Hy-Vee grocery stores, Hy-Vee Drug Store and The Center on South Main Street.

Jungman said Heritage supports all three agencies (CBRD, CBFD, Boys Town Iowa) in the competition, so it made sense to help out.

“The Heritage at Fox Run is always looking for opportunities to give back to the community,” Jungman said. “Just as we wouldn’t want our elderly to choose between paying bills and necessary staples, we certainly don’t want others, including families with young children, to have to make that choice.”

Jungman said there are many similarities between the elderly and children.

“The goal of this drive is to ensure families have the supplies they need to live their daily lives,” she said.

“At times, we see seniors who are struggling to provide those same staples for themselves. Both generations are vulnerable age groups, and we felt it was a necessary gesture to give back.”

Jungman said Heritage spoke with Boys Town Iowa and the CBPD and CBFD and everyone was very excited for their help.

“Our hope is that we get a flood of people in our doors, and make a positive impact in the lives of families and children through our donations,” she said. “We are prepared for the Council Bluffs public to tour the community next week.”

teamwork-pays-as-officers-therapists-combine-expertiseTeamwork Pays as Officers, Therapists Combine ExpertiseIowa
Copyright Joe Shearer, The Daily NonPareil
Tuesday, Jun 21, 2016

​​This article is written by Tim Johnson. It was posted June 18, 2016 on

A growing relationship between local law enforcement agencies and a mental health crisis team is paying dividends, officials say.

The Crisis Response Team is made up of therapists and social workers from ​Heartland Family Service, Veterans Affairs, area schools, CHI Health, Boys Town and private practice, according to Director Jenny Stewart of Heartland Family Service.

Counting Stewart and two lead therap​ists – one for Iowa, one for Nebraska – there are 18 on the team.

The CRT responds to calls from law enforcement officers when they see signs that someone involved in an incident is in a mental health crisis, Stewart said. The team always has at least one person on call.

“We typically have one assigned, and then there’s backup,” she said. “There’s four who could go out.”

Team members try to be on scene within 30 minutes, Stewart said.

“The therapist will go out and will be debriefed by the officer on what’s happened,” she said. “The therapist will do a safety risk assessment.”

The team member tries to determine how likely it is that the person might hurt himself or herself or someone else, Stewart said. They consider whether the person has a plan to do that and a weapon, whether they have support people who can stay with them for the night and other factors.

Then, the therapist makes a recommendation to the law enforcement officer on what level of care the person needs.

“Law enforcement makes the final decision on what happens to that person,” she said. “If that person goes to the hospital, the therapist will follow that person to the hospital to speak to the doctor or medical staff.”

The goal is to avoid unnecessary incarcerations and hospitalizations, Stewart said.

The relationship between law enforcement and the CRT has changed the way suspects in mental health crises are handled, said Officer Ben Lake of the Council Bluffs Police Department.

In the past, officers’ options were limited.

“We can’t solve their problem in 15 minutes on a call,” he said. “We would just immediately take them to the hospital.”

There, they would see an emergency room doctor who could not help them immediately – only hold them to see a psychiatrist the next day (if there was a bed available) or refer them to someone who could provide outpatient treatment, Lake said. If the person was admitted to the hospital, taxpayers would likely have to pay the bill.

“The CRT helps us connect that person with other resources, instead of us just taking them to jail or to the hospital,” said Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jerome Stewart, Jenny Stewart’s husband.

The team was formed in 2008 and initially served only Sarpy County, Nebraska, Jenny Stewart said. Pottawattamie County was added in January 2011 and Cass County, Nebraska, in June 2011. Some team members are only licensed in one state or the other.

“We have a number of therapists who are trained in both states, so they sit on every county’s team,” she said.

Sometimes Stewart or one of the lead therapists debriefs a team member after a call, she said.

“Crisis response can be really intense,” she said. “We’ve had tables flipped on us, people charge us. There is always at least one law enforcement officer there, but things can change quickly – and there are often several people on site.”

The CRT is in the process of adding eight more counties, all in Iowa: Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, Montgomery, Page and Shelby, Jenny Stewart said. Because the team doesn’t have members in all of the counties, members respond to calls from rural counties via telehealth – a live video broadcast between the officer’s cruiser and the therapist’s computer or smart phone.

“There’s not enough therapists in those areas,” she said.

With the video hookup, the therapist can still look for body language and other visual cues, Jenny Stewart added. Telehealth may be used for calls from eastern Pottawattamie County, too, depending on whether the officer is willing or able to wait for a therapist to get to the scene.

Two deputies are currently ​testing reception in the rural counties, she said.

The team trains law enforcement officers annually on dealing with people with mental health issues, she said. In turn, law enforcement officials train CRT members on what they might encounter on a call.

“We really need that situational training everywhere we go,” Jenny Stewart said. “There’s no charge to our agency, and we, in kind, don’t charge them for our training. It’s a great partnership.”

Added Jerome Stewart: “I have found in my years the more I have learned about mental health or behavioral health, the better I have been able to communicate with people on the street.”

The deputy said he is better able to recognize signs of mental illness now and is better able to de-escalate the situation when someone is upset.

“The more I learn, the easier it gets,” Jerome Stewart said.

cbpd-and-cbfd-collect-items-for-local-needy-familiesCBPD and CBFD Collect Items for Local Needy FamiliesIowa
Copyright Joe Shearer
Thursday, Jun 9, 2016

​​​​​​This article is written by Derek ​Sullivan. It was posted June 2, 2016 on

Regardless of which team wins, hundreds of needy children will come out on top.

In June, the Council Bluffs Police Department and the Council Bluffs Fire Department will collect necessary household items, like cleaning supplies and hygienic products, for families helped by Boys Town Iowa.

Boys Town Iowa helps families in 30 western Iowa counties, but the contest between the CBPD and CBFD, called the Boys Town Iowa Drive, will make life easier for Council Bluffs families, said Debbie Orduna, director of Iowa operations.

Each department has six collection boxes located throughout Council Bluffs at the police stations, fire department stations, local Hy-Vee grocery stores, Hy-Vee Drug Store and The Center on South Main Street.

“We feel very fortunate that the police and firefighters are helping our cause,” Orduna said. “They put their lives on the line everyday to ensure our safety, and they also have a true understanding of the importance to help families receive basic needs. We are very appreciative of the passion they have put behind this cause. It’s just another way they go above and beyond.”

Council Bluffs Fire Chief Justin James said Boys Town has helped him in a personal way by assisting a boy he knows.

“I think (Boys Town Iowa) is trying to get into something that is missed right now. A lot of time these children are in very rough conditions,” James said. “The kids and their parents are living in poverty and they don’t have any money to go out and buy cleaning supplies or hygiene products, so we are just trying to done those items so they can have a better and more successful home, a cleaner environment for the children.

“I don’t believe there is a charity out there that provides these necessities,” he said. “There’s nowhere else for them to go.”

Council Bluffs Police Officer Jill Knotek said for many people items such as toothpaste and toilet paper are necessities, but for some needy families those items are luxuries.

“A lot of families live in poverty and they have to decide how they are going to spend their money. They have to decide whether to spend it on transportation, items for their children or food. Oftentimes, there is not a lot of money left over. “

On July 1, the donations will be weighed at a ceremony at the Boys Town Iowa office at 1851 Madison Ave. After the weigh-in, a winner will be crowned.

“It makes it a little more fun,” Knotek said. “It’s for bragging rights.”

James joked that since the fire department traditionally comes out on top in competitions with the police department it ​isn’t that big of deal. Of course, providing necessities to needy family is a big deal.

“Our guys love kids and we see many families in terrible spots,” James said. “We want to do whatever we can to help.”

Contest Details

Drop off locations

  • 227 S 6 St., Police Records
  • 757 W. Broadway, Hy-Vee Drugstore
  • 1759 Madison Ave., Hy-Vee
  • 2323 W. Broadway, Hy-Vee
  • 714 S. Main St, The Center
  • 200 S. 4th St, FD Headquarters
  • 30 S. 27th St, Fire Station 2
  • 2111 Greenview Road, Fire Station 4
  • 3405 S. 11th St, Fire Station 5
  • 1000 Oak St., Fire Station 6
  • 1851 Madison Ave., Boys Town Iowa Office

Items needed
shampoo/conditioner, bar soap/hand soap, unscented deodorant, toothbrushes/toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, lotion, disposable razors, toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex, laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaners, glass cleaner, rags/sponges, buckets, dishwasher detergent, bathroom cleaners, sanitizer, diapers and baby wipes, baby bottles/sippy cups, childproofing, accessories, bug bombs/ant traps

Copyright Joe Shearer 

face-of-the-day-debbie-ordunaFace of the Day: Debbie OrdunaIowa
Debbie Orduna is the director of Boys Town Iowa, an affiliate of the national Boys Town organization.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

This ​article was posted on on April 18, 2016.

Debbie Orduna is the director of Boys Town Iowa, an affiliate of the national Boys Town organization that has been bringing hope and healing to children and families for nearly 100 years. Boys Town Iowa primarily provides In-Home Family Services, which began helping families in Pottawattamie County in 1989 and has since grown to serve 30 western Iowa counties.

Boys Town Iowa prevents child abuse by teaching parents skills that empower them to overcome challenges that threaten the stability of their home and the safety of their children. These challenges include economic hardship, substance abuse, marital issues and family conflict. In-Home Family Services help families stay together by preventing the removal of children from their homes or by reunifying children with their families if outside placement is necessary.

“Every family deserves the chance to stay together and receive services that can help them heal and thrive,” Orduna said. “When families are strong, our communities are strong. Helping children grow up in safe, stable homes and providing parents with the tools to support their family is critical to keeping children safe and keeping families together.”

Boys Town Iowa Family Consultants are available to work with and provide support to families 24/7, helping parents build on their strengths, improve their parenting skills and connect to community resources and supports. Family consultants also coach parents on how to solve problems on their own so they can maintain a stable, nurturing home long after an intervention ends.

Boys Town Iowa also provides Common Sense Parenting classes, which teach parents and other caregivers proven techniques for building strong family relationships, preventing and correcting children’s misbehavior, using consequences to improve behavior, maintaining self-control and staying calm. Classes are presented in the community in formal and informal settings.

boys-town-participates-in-race-for-prevention-of-child-abuseBoys Town Participates in Race for Prevention of Child Abuse Iowa
Friday, Apr 22, 2016

Boys Town staff from Nebraska and ​Iowa showed their support for the Prevention of Child Abuse as they raced in the second annual Metropolitan Child Advocacy Coalition’s Child Abuse Prevention Council Race for Prevention of Child Abuse on April 9, 2016.

The race took place in Downtown Omaha on the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge; the bridge that connects Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha. Members of various Nebraska and Iowa child and family services organizations came together to take a stand against child abuse.

Both Boys Town Nebraska and Iowa In-Home Family Services (IHFS) teams were present to volunteer and to watch as Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh met in the middle of the bridge to sign a proclamation recognizing the importance of child abuse prevention and April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“It is important for Boys Town staff to team up with other members of the community to show we are in the efforts of protecting children and healing families together,” said Lisa Pierce, Director, In-Home Family Services.

Additionally, the Nebraska In-Home Family Services team placed pinwheels outside of the South Omaha office in an effort to bring awareness to child abuse prevention. Pierce said this serves as a reminder that everyone has a responsibility to keep kids safe. She said, “These pinwheels allow for the community to see them and be reminded that it is an entire community’s responsibility to keep our children safe and free from abuse.”

classes-help-siouxland-mothers-in-recovery-improve-parenting-skillsClasses Help Siouxland Mothers in Recovery Improve Parenting SkillsIowa
Copyright Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal
Monday, Oct 5, 2015

​​This ​article is written by Dolly A. Butz of the Sioux City Journal . It was posted on on October 3, 2015.

Christina ​Pool lifted her infant daughter into the air and planted numerous kisses on her chubby cheeks in a conference room at Jackson Recovery Centers Women & Children's Center.

Neither mom nor baby could help but smile.

The 28-year-old, who was addicted to drugs and alcohol for five years, entered treatment when 6-month-old Myracle Rose-Pool was just 3 weeks old. Words on Myracle's pink bib say she's "Mommy's new BFF."

Pool, who is living at Sanctuary Apartments on Jackson's campus, is enrolled in out-patient treatment and working part-time. She said her daughter truly is a "miracle" because she saved her life and gave her a second chance to parent with a clear mind right from the start. Pool has four other daughters and a son all under the age of 9.

Common Sense Parenting (CSP) classes that Pool received through a partnership between Jackson Recovery Centers and Boys Town of Iowa are helping her meet Myracle's needs while finding a work-life balance as a woman in recovery.

"It just really helps to be able to get to know her, which is something that I didn't do with my other kids like knowing what her cries mean or being able to sense when she's upset or fussy," said Pool as Myracle babbled.

CSP, an evidence-based parenting program, can be applied to any family. The program is offered to mothers in treatment at Jackson once a week for eight weeks. During the two-hour classes participants learn parenting techniques that address issues of communication, discipline, decision making, relationships, self-control and school success.

Trisha Wegner, Jackson's clinical supervisor, said some patients possess basic parenting skills, but their addiction has removed them from the role of mom for a while.

"For some of them (CSP) is a reminder -- getting back to information they're already aware of. Some of them are learning new skills as well," she said. "I do believe the patients here find this beneficial to have while in treatment."

Jeff Hackett, director of community engagement for Boys Town, said he wishes CSP had been around when he had his first child. The father of four said being a parent is the most difficult job a person will have in their lifetime. CSP provides an instruction manual for parent  who often revert to how they themselves were parented, he said.

"People assume parenting is innate and it's not necessarily. There's an emotion that's innate, but it's not style," he said. "(CSP) avoids so many butting of heads that parents and children can get into."


Pool, who is the youngest in her family, said her stepmother raised her, while her dad spent his days on the road as a truck driver.

"Growing up, I helped my sisters take care of their children. I was the big sister to my nieces and nephews more than their aunt," said Pool, who is from Lincoln, Nebraska.

By the age of 21, Pool had two children of her own. She worked nights as a grocery store clerk and was then promoted to assistant manager. After Pool's third child came along, she said she really struggled balancing full-time work and being a single mom.

"It was work, work, work. By the time I got home I was too exhausted to even try to parent," she said.

Her family helped her out as much as they could, but Pool said it was tough raising three children born a year apart.

Her third child was born with a variety of disabilities, including a cleft palate, and had to undergo several surgeries.

"That's when things kind of got overwhelming for me with my children," Pool said. "I picked up drinking really bad."

Drinking led to marijuana and methamphetamine use. Pool had two more children. Eventually, Nebraska's Division of Children and Family Services stepped in and the court terminated Pool's parental rights. One of her cousins adopted her son and four daughters, whom Pool is allowed to visit.

Last year, Pool's attorney told her she would have to leave the state if she wanted to keep the child she was carrying.

"It took my dad looking at me and asking me was I gonna keep having kids and giving them away. That was probably the biggest point in my life where I realized I didn't want to just not keep caring anymore," she said.

Pool moved to Iowa to live with a friend. The Department of Human Services encouraged her to enroll in an in-patient drug treatment program at Jackson Recovery Center's in Sioux City, which she did shortly after giving birth to Myracle.

"Being in treatment and (my cousin) seeing the effort I have put forth has really helped. I've got to go home and do therapy sessions with my children," said Pool who has seven months of sobriety under her belt. "I'm just truly giving thanks to God for where I'm at today."


The first session of parenting classes, which Pool attended, were held in the spring. A second round of CSP recently wrapped up.

Hackett brought the classes to the Women & Children's Center with funding Boys Town received from the Iowa Child Welfare Decategorization Project. Decategorization of the child welfare system redirects child welfare and juvenile justice funding to provide services that are more preventative, family-centered and community-based.

CSP focuses on modeling, demonstration and role-playing rather than lecture, which comprises only about 15 minutes of each class. Hackett said participants break into groups, watch a segment of a video depicting a parenting scenario, determine what the problem is and come up with a solution. The women engage in role-playing, taking turns being both parent and child. They receive workbooks and are expected to complete homework assignments.

Hackett said instructors also observe the women interacting with their children in the home setting. He said it gives participants the opportunity to concentrate on certain aspects of parenting that they may be struggling with.

Shopping with her nieces and nephews used to drive her crazy, Pool said. She assumed they knew how to behave in the store.

Now, she knows to state the rules and her expectations to the children before entering the store and to repeat those rules if needed. She rewards positive behavior with praise, a high five or a trip to the park.

During a recent visit to Lincoln, Pool used CSP methods to discipline her children. She said she put them in timeout and explained why they were receiving that particular punishment. Their behavior improved.

"It's just kind of trial and error -- seeing if it works. And it works," she said. "It's amazing."

new-downtown-park-a-great-project-mayor-saysNew Downtown Park a 'Great Project,' Mayor SaysIowa
© Joe Shearer
Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015

This article was written by Tim ​Rohwer and published on September 2, 2015 in The Daily Nonpareil .

It’s been said that broken windows breed crime.

“The same thing can be said with a vacant lot,” said Jaymes Sime, community outreach coordinator for Boys Town Iowa.

That’s why a proposed neighborhood park near downtown Council Bluffs in the West Bayliss neighborhood is such a good thing, according to numerous local officials. Proponents say the park would provide youth recreational and healthy activities in a neighborhood in need of more such options.

Plans call for a small soccer field with a half-basketball court nearby. Some play features, such as a sandbox and swinging tires, might be included as well. A 4-foot-high chain-linked fence would be installed around the area as a safety precaution.

“This is just one piece of the puzzle in the (redeveloped) neighborhood, but an important piece,” Sime said.

And he is certainly not alone in pushing for such a park.

The Morning Rotary Club, of which he is a member, has provided a $2,000 grant for basketball hoops and equipment. Area churches and organizations have expressed interest in helping out, he said.

“It’s a grassroots neighborhood park,” said Mayor Matt Walsh.

Once completed, activities not only could include structured games, but perhaps frequent cookouts attracting the nearby residents and others in the community.

“It could serve multiple purposes,” he said. “I think 95 percent to 99 percent of the residents there love their neighborhood and want to see it reach its full potential.”

Added Walsh: “I think it’s a great project. The park is in an area of town that have a lot of kids living in apartments that don’t have yards to play in. Kids need to get out and get fresh air.”

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