Grant has big impact on youth shelter

If there's one thing that a grant usually does for the Child Welfare Emergency Services, it is simply help staff members do what they do best, said Judy Davidson, program director at the CWES agency shelter in Iowa. "We believe in loving these kids," she said. "We're very passionate about it."

The shelter, which operates under contract through the Iowa Department of Human Services and American Home Finding Association, received a grant from the Community Foundation of Van Buren County last year and it has had lasting impacts for staff and the youth in their care. The Community Foundation of Van Buren County is a Geographic Affiliate Fund of the Quad Cities Community Foundation.

The CWES shelter facility holds up to 15 youth ages 11 to 17, who come from all over the state and oftentimes from high-level care, such as a psychiatric medical institution. Some of the youth have mental health issues, have committed crimes or have lost a parent. "We have such a wide range of kids," Davidson said, and there are times when one tries to run away, or there is an altercation.

One of the ways to provide a more secure environment was possible through the grant from the Community Foundation of Van Buren County, which provided the funding for a camera system to monitor multiple areas of the facility. "We can see what's going on and it has created accountability and increased awareness," she said.

The impact on the shelter is evident thanks to the grant. The number of critical incidents during the past year have decreased, which means it is a safer facility and staff can be more effective in getting the kids help they need.

Youth in the shelter have an opportunity to succeed, she added. Many times, the shelter is one of the places the youth go when all other options have been exhausted. "We do see good results coming from our work," she said. "We wipe the slate clean when they come in."

One youth member who was in trouble with the law for stealing a car was placed at the shelter and has turned his life around, Davidson noted. "He goes to his home school district, he's in sports and he's going into the Job Corps," she said. "He's doing really well."

Support from the Community Foundation speaks volumes about the need for support and funding for the region's most vulnerable youth. "We couldn't do it without grants like this," Davidson added.

The state and county reimburse the association for some costs, but it is not enough to even house the kids, much less provide them the resources they need. CWES will continue to seek support for the welfare of the kids, Davidson said, anything from counseling to weighted blankets for youth with autism. It all makes a difference.

"We love these kids and we've seen them be able to improve their lives," she said.