Youth Shelter Care of North Central Iowa is expanding its services beyond the walls of the shelter to fulfill the educational needs of at-risk children.
In addition to the shelter, the organization operates the Girls Remedial Learning Service program in the former Holy Rosary Church and School, and its most recent expansion is the Collaborative Approach to Remedial Educational Services (C.A.R.E.S.) Program, located in the Fort Dodge Community Schools Central Administration Building.
Youth Shelter Care acquired the program to fill the need for a remedial education when the school district's partnership with the Four Oaks School-Based Program ended at the end of the 2009-2010 school year.
Devin Banks, right, works with Youth Shelter C.A.R.E.S. Program staff member Valerie Newsome on a project about having a sense of belonging. C.A.R.E.S. works to provide schooling, remedial services and counseling to its students, who are referred to the program.
In its first year, the C.A.R.E.S. program is serving six students in second through ninth grade with room to accommodate the needs of up to 12 students. Three of the students are from the Fort Dodge Community School district and the other half come from other area school districts, said Diane Arndt, director of the C.A.R.E.S. Program.
"We're at half full now," Arndt said. "And there are several referrals pending."
The program is primarily designed for kindergarten through eighth-grade students, but also takes referrals for students who are beyond that age group.
"We're going to try to be flexible with ages," said Arndt. "We want to help the students thrive no matter what their age; sometimes age doesn't affect how well they get along with other kids."
Students are admitted to the program by referral from their home school district and each application is reviewed by C.A.R.E.S. staff and the Fort Dodge Community Schools' director of special needs. Most students who are referred to the program have difficulty thriving in a traditional classroom setting or disciplinary issues.
"Some of the students may have a behavior issue that their home school district can't accommodate, and most of them have had a mental health diagnosis," Arndt said.
Each school day is divided between classroom time and remedial services. The students are taught core subjects and will soon start specials, such as physical education and art classes. Part of the day is spent in group and individual counseling sessions.
"Our ultimate goal is to integrate the students back into their regular schools," said Katie Deal, C.A.R.E.S. clinical coordinator. "We focus on skill building and help them to develop the coping, relational and communication skills they will need when they go back to their own schools."
The program also includes optional home visits, and staff would eventually like to add family counseling sessions.
"We want to get the families more involved," said Deal.
The C.A.R.E.S. program has been part of YSC executive director Dennis Baugh's effort to meet the educational needs of as many area children as its services possibly can, Arndt said.
"Dennis is always looking at ways we can branch out and educate kids," she said. "We want to help kids in whatever capacity it is needed."
Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org