When Carley came to Boys Town, she was looking for only one thing — a place she could call home.
Both of Carley’s parents had passed away, and she had bounced from one group home to another, nine in all. Without any parental guidance, Carley fell into a life of substance abuse and dangerous behavior.
“I wasn’t making a lot of real good choices,” she said. “And, there really wasn’t anyone I could go to for any help.”
That’s when Boys Town rescued Carley. As a resident of a Family Home in the Village of Boys Town, Nebraska, the teen became part of a new “family” of teenage girls, receiving guidance and support, and learning valuable life skills from her Family–Teachers®, the trained married couple who lived in the home and provided daily care for all the girls.
Carley’s greatest need was structure and direction. Without the support of loving parents, she had to trust Boys Town to help her grow up, find healing and move forward.
Boys Town’s life-changing care helped Carley get her life back on track and start afresh. She eventually graduated from Boys Town High School and earned a nursing degree. Today, she works as a nurse in a hospital in Colorado.
“I’m so thankful there is a place like Boys Town,” she said. “From the first time the people at Boys Town told me they would look out for me, I’ve always felt loved and appreciated. I know I wouldn’t have gone to college without Boys Town.”
Carley’s story is just one chapter in the epic story of how Boys Town helps tens of thousands of children and families find their miracles of the heart every year.
From its humble beginnings as a small home for wayward boys founded by Father Edward Flanagan back in 1917, Boys Town has grown to become a national leader in the care and treatment of children and families. As one of the largest nonprofit, nonsectarian child-and-family-care organizations in the country, Boys Town provides compassionate, research-proven programs to address behavioral, emotional and physical problems and offers leading-edge medical care to children with hearing, speech and other communication disorders.
Every year, Boys Town youth, family, community and health-care programs touch the lives of more than 2 million people nationwide, including nearly 130,000 children and families that receive direct care.
The Village of Boys Town in Nebraska remains the national headquarters for Boys Town. It is home to one of the country’s largest residential-care communities, where hundreds of boys and girls learn new skills and overcome their problems while living in 60 family-style homes with trained couples called Family–Teachers. The Village also is the administrative, training and research center for the organization.
Boys Town’s reach is national in scope, with treatment and care programs at more than a dozen sites across the country. Besides the Village of Boys Town, sites are located in Santa Ana, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; San Antonio, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; West Palm Beach, Florida; Orlando, Florida; Tallahassee, Florida; Portsmouth, Rhode Island; New York City; Washington, D.C; Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Grand Island, Nebraska.
Even more children and families receive benefits through the training and assistance Boys Town offers to hundreds of organizations, including schools, psychiatric hospitals and other youth-care organizations. (For example, more than 10,000 educators received training in Boys Town school improvement programs in 2013, impacting approximately 141,000 students across the country.)
The toll-free Boys Town National Hotline® (800-448-3000) has handled more than 8 million calls since opening in 1989, and provides assistance to children, parents and others 24/7, year round.
Boys Town National Research Hospital® in Omaha, Nebraska, is internationally recognized as a leader in the treatment of childhood deafness, speech problems, visual impairment and related communication disorders. Its research programs have developed improved diagnostic and treatment techniques for use with young children, and it is a world leader in research on Usher syndrome.
A second Hospital site at the Village of Boys Town helps meet the health, emotional and mental health needs of youngsters. Boys Town pediatric clinics also serve children throughout the Omaha area, and a Pediatrics Hotline provides valuable advice to thousands of parents and other caregivers every year.
Under the current leadership of Father Steven E. Boes, Boys Town’s fifth National Executive Director, Boys Town provides effective care through its unique Integrated Continuum of Care®, a closely connected spectrum of services that are all based on the consistent delivery of the research-proven Boys Town Model®.
The Model’s main elements include:
• Striving to help children get better (positive outcomes)
• Teaching children new, life-changing skills
• Helping children achieve their educational goals (youth who successfully complete our residential program have a 90% high school graduation rate)
• Helping children build healthy relationships
• Empowering children to make good decisions on their own
• Caring for children in a family-style environment
• Ensuring that children are in a safe place and a safe program
• Making sure children are nurtured and respected
• Ensuring that a child’s own family is an active, essential participant in the child’s care and treatment, partnering with Boys Town to plan and develop strategies that best meet the child’s needs.
Children of all ages find hope and healing at Boys Town. They come to Boys Town programs from a wide range of circumstances and experiences, and from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. In most cases, working with a child also means working with the child’s family, especially in situations where families can be kept together or brought back together with Boys Town’s intervention.
In the Contiuum, children and families can begin services at the level that best suits their needs. As they make progress or their needs change, they can move from treatment levels of more intensive care to levels of greater independence and empowerment. This effective approach enables Boys Town to help more children and families in more ways, with the same expectations for positive results. Continuum services include:
• The Residential Treatment Center, an intensive, medically directed program for children who have serious psychiatric and behavioral health disorders. The program has two environments in which children can receive treatment, depending on their needs. A facility-secure environment is offered for more seriously troubled children who require around-the-clock supervision, intense therapy and numerous other safety and program features. A less-restrictive, staff-secure environment allows children to progress toward learning daily living skills and developing appropriate, healthy socialization.
• Intervention and Assessment Services, which provide emergency, short-term, 24-hour care in a residential setting for boys and girls ages 10 to 18. Many of these children have been abused and/or neglected, are runaways or have come through the juvenile justice system. The primary goals at this level of service are to remove youth from dangerous situations and/or provide temporary care until a more permanent placement can be arranged.
• The Family Home Program, where youth with serious behavioral or emotional problems live in a family-style home and receive teaching and care from professionally trained married couples called Family–Teachers®. Six to eight boys or girls, usually ages 10 to 18, live in each home. The couple and a full-time Assistant Family–Teacher® are responsible for providing structured supervision for youths in their daily living and care activities. This includes meeting educational, medical, psychological, emotional and behavioral needs of each youth. A major focus of this program is teaching youth social, independent-living and educational skills, and helping them build healthy relationships with others.
• Foster Family Services, where professionally trained Foster Parents in the community open their homes and their hearts to provide care and support for children of all ages, infancy through adolescents. With a focus on reunification, Foster Family Services utilize a strength-based, team approach to work with each foster child’s family to achieve safety, permanency and well-being. Foster Parents receive 24/7 support from Boys Town professionals.
• In-Home Family Services, in which trained Boys Town Family Consultants work right in a family’s home to prevent children from being placed outside of the home or to reunify them with their family if outside placement is necessary. One of Boys Town’s fastest-growing programs, In-Home Family Services focus on the whole family, helping caregivers build on their strengths, improve their parenting skills and identify useful community resources and supports. Family Consultants also help families learn how to solve problems on their own after the intervention ends.
• Community Support Services, which provide resources and valuable information to parents, families and professionals across the United States, and direct care for children and families in certain affiliate site communities. The main goal of programs at this service level is to help people help themselves by providing tools, training, resources, and other techniques based on Boys Town’s research-proven approach to the care and education of children and families. Most services focus on prevention rather than intervention. These services include the Boys Town National Hotline® (800-448-3000), the parenting.org website, Outpatient Behavioral Health clinics (which serve children at several Boys Town sites), education training for teachers and schools, and Common Sense Parenting® classes.
Boys Town also takes a major leadership role in advocating for improvements in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, which often offer fragmented and ineffective treatment. It also is continually expanding its community outreach efforts to help even more children and families by concentrating services where they are needed most.
Research is so important to Boys Town’s work that an entire department — the Boys Town National Research Institute SM — is devoted to identifying child and family problems and finding the best ways to solve them. Our research shows that years after completing services, Boys Town youth — even those with the most severe problems — achieve success as adults.
Many things have changed since Boys Town opened its doors to those first children in need. Programs, services, research and numerous other elements have become essential to the work of providing quality care for children and families, especially those who struggle daily to overcome daunting challenges. One thing that has not changed, however, is the spirit of love and genuine concern for kids that drives Boys Town’s mission, a spirit that Father Flanagan galvanized nearly 100 years ago to start a revolution in child care.
For children who come to Boys Town, real change begins when they accept the life-changing seeds so many of them have missed out on: social skills, faith, education, healthy relationships, a sense of purpose and self-confidence. Boys Town nurtures these seeds with care and coaxes them to grow every day through therapeutic teaching, practice and guidance.
With nearly 100 years of experience in caring for children, Boys Town knows that kids will respond in positive ways when someone takes the time to care about them. Kids want and deserve to be loved and valued. When the seeds we plant take root and blossom, a boy who got D’s and F’s before coming to Boys Town begins to see his name on the honor roll. An abused girl who couldn’t look another person in the eye before coming to Boys Town becomes captain of the basketball team. And every spring, hundreds of young people who had once given up all hope of a happy life don graduation gowns and cross a stage to accept their high school diplomas.
None of this work is easy. Miracles of the heart take commitment and patience. And Boys Town doesn’t help children and families accomplish their goals alone. For as long as Boys Town has existed, the prayers, generous donations and loyal support of people around the world have sustained its mission: Changing the way America cares for children, families and communities by providing and promoting an Integrated Continuum of Care that instills Boys Town values to strengthen body, mind and spirit.
It’s no accident that Boys Town is closing in on the century mark of providing life-changing care to America’s children, families and communities. With a solid foundation of donor support, research-proven results and a compassionate approach that always puts children first, Boys Town will continue to shine as a beacon of hope and healing for those in need.
To learn more about Boys Town and how you can support its efforts to save children and heal families, please visit boystown.org.
KARA NEUVERTH is director of Media Relations and Marketing & Communications at Boys Town.