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Children’s Square U.S.A. serves children in need

By Staff | Apr 11, 2008

With broken families come broken children, and it’s Lloyd Herbener’s job to help put those children together again.

Herbener, director of Planned Giving and Major Gifts for Children’s Square U.S.A., visited Estherville Wednesday to spread the good word of what the organization is doing to help children in need. Whether it’s counseling or foster care placement or something more severe such as emergency shelter or psychiatric residential treatment, Children’s Square U.S.A. is there to help.

Children’s Square U.S.A. began as an adoption agency when the Rev. Joseph Lemen founded the organization in 1882 to help three little farm girls. By the end of that year, Children’s Square had served 122 children. In time, it became so well known for helping children that it became one of the stopping points for the Orphan Train that came through Iowa and Nebraska from the 1880s to the 1930s.

According to Herbener, through the years Children’s Square U.S.A. has become more socially diversified to accommodate cultural changes. For example, Children’s Square currently has placed 200 children into foster care, with 100 of those in the Sioux City area.

Children’s Square also offers the only 24-hour children’s emergency shelter in western Iowa. Children may be placed in shelter by judges, police, or parents who can no longer care for their children.

“The shelter is a short-term safe haven sort of operation,” Herbener said. Children often go directly from the shelter to foster care placement.

The Children’s Square on-campus psychiatric unit in Council Bluffs can accommodate 42 children between 8-15. The psychiatric unit has a capacity for 30 boys and 10-12 girls. The unit deals with children who have stability disorders, behavioral disorders in the classroom, or aggressive behavior. Herbener pointed out that many of the children in psychiatric care have no roots due to parental abandonment and need structure.

The Council Bluffs facility also offers daycare for infants to age 5.

Founded 50 years before Boys Town, Children’s Square U.S.A. receives 85 percent of its budget from state and local governments with the remaining 15 percent coming from private donors.

Children’s Square U.S.A. served 678 children the first two months of 2007 and 2,550 for all of last year. The first two months of 2008 have seen an explosive growth in the need for services, with the agency serving 1,440 children through February.

“We’re not successful with every kid. But we are successful with most of them,” Herbener said.