Youth Shelter Care is a human services provider for boys and girls up to age 18, with a philosophy of preserving the family unit whenever possible.
YSC offers several intervention programs, including Girls Remedial Learning School and Behavioral Health Intervention Services, and support groups such as Achieving Maximum Potential. For the Fort Dodge Community School District, it provides counselors for its PRIDE and CARES programs. Its BHIS counselors have 35 clients, and PRIDE and CARES serve 36 students.
As a shelter, it has a child welfare emergency contract with the Iowa Department of Human Services. Its 10-bed shelter is currently serving eight youths.
"We want to divert the use of shelter beds," Jim Seward, YSC executive director, said. "We want to make sure the child is safely at home and we work with the providers that are already working with the child or the crisis family."
YSC has a four to six week relationship with the families, Seward said, and mediates between other providers.
"We're making sure everything is in line for the betterment of that identified client and we refer on to our behavioral intervention services here at YSC or we encourage the use of their current provider, or the mental health provider or substance abuse provider, all to be sure the family is healthy."
This year, YSC received its state accreditation to provide mental health services.
"That's a new area Youth Shelter has never been able to do, so I'm excited for that, to provide an option for the community and the clients we serve," Seward said. "A lot of times we were referring outside."
There is a great need for these services in Fort Dodge and the surrounding counties, Seward said, especially as an emergency shelter.
YSC is one of 14 remaining shelters in Iowa.
"Because of budget cuts, within the last year two of them closed," he said. "That's always difficult for those youth who need those services. The youth come from DHS referral, from law enforcement placement referral and JCO (Juvenile Court Office) referrals."
Stays at YSC range from 24 hours to 28 days, Seward said.
"We've had clients here longer than 28 days because of their continuation of care, placements where they're going, there may not be a room, there may not be a bed open for them. They might not have found a foster care placement yet, or maybe the mom or dad, family members, aren't ready for them to come home. When that occurs, we keep them safe," he said. "Our job is to keep them safe."
The shelter's bed allocations are based on its contract with the Iowa DHS, Seward said.
"We're able to breathe a lot easier this year," he said. "This past year, for child welfare emergency services under the DHS budget, we saw a 5 percent increase, which was wonderful. The year before, we saw a $300,000 decrease, so we lost a bed. We were allocated for 11 beds and now we're allocated for 10 beds. So it's a fixed income. That affects us overall with staffing, with opportunity for the youth and programming."
Programming concentrates on building skills for daily living. For its summer programming, YSC had differently themed weeks, including sports, arts and crafts and reading. For the first time this year, YSC worked with Stable Connections to provide equine-assisted therapy.
"They have a licensed mental health therapist who processes their stay there and it's just an incredible experience for the youth," Seward said. "We've done that for eight weeks."
The most important part of care, Seward said, is family.
"I professionally and personally think there's no continuity of care without the family component," he said. "We meet with the child one hour a week. There's 168 hours a week. One hour out of 168 hours, how can change occur during that time? That's 167 hours we're not face-to-face. So who is face-to-face in that time? Families. It's our job to include them so there's better care."