(p. 1A) It’s been a century since a young Irish priest named Father Edward Flanagan welcomed homeless boys into a run-down Victorian mansion in downtown Omaha.
But as Boys Town celebrates its centennial, the organization is lessening its focus on the kind of residential care model that made it famous.
The latest wave came in June, as Boys Town announced the shuttering of sites in New York, Texas and California, including one residential care site in Orange County.
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In 2000 under the Rev. Val Peter, then its executive director, the organization had 16 sites — though some were shelters without residential care.
The Rev. Steven Boes, current president and national executive director, insists the Flanagan mission of caring for American families and children remains, despite what he called some tough decisions to close sites.
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(p. 2A) Boys Town decided to shutter its 80-acre residential site in Trabuco Canyon and two family homes in Tustin, California, after years of advocating for regulatory changes in that state. At the time of the June announcement, those homes housed 28 children.
The Trabuco Canyon site was one of 14 Boys Town residential care facilities opened in the 1980s and ’90s as Peter worked to spread the model to larger metro areas around the nation.
Since then, changing state regulations have made it more difficult to implement the Boys Town model in many of those areas, said Bob Pick, executive vice president of youth care.
“We opened those sites 20 or 30 years ago, and it was an exciting time,” Pick said. “But times change, contracts change and we have to serve kids with the highest quality. We just couldn’t do that in some locations.”
When the Trabuco Canyon facility opened, youths stayed for up to two years, Pick said, adding that Boys Town’s own research shows that the minimum stay should be about six months and a yearlong stay is ideal.
Because of contractual rules including mandated length of stays in California, “we couldn’t get kids to stay longer than two or three months,” Pick said. “That’s just not quality care.”
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The changes at Boys Town haven’t come without criticism.
The Rev. Peter worries that the closing of Boys Town sites and focus on research runs afoul of Flanagan’s mission. “I gave my whole life to this — to Flanagan’s dream,” Peter, 83, said. “This is called God’s dream. Times change, but God’s dream doesn’t.”
For the full story, see:
Klecker, Mara. “Renowned care model no longer main focus; Overall trend is toward in-home family consulting, fewer residential sites.” Omaha World-Herald (Sun., Aug. 27, 2017): 1A-2A.
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