Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

For nearly 50 years, Four Oaks Family and Children’s Services and its affiliate organizations Jane Boyd Community House and The Affordable Housing Network (AHNI) have worked diligently to serve and meet the needs of Iowa’s children, families and communities. Since our inception, our founders identified systemic inequities in our community and relentlessly pursued solutions to ensure success. Our focus to ensure inclusive services to all individuals is ingrained in every fiber of our organization’s fabric.

Guided by our TotalChild® service model, a holistic approach that addresses the whole child and family, we are committed to serving all children and families regardless of their age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, generational trauma, mental health status, and more. We recognize that in order for our children and families to thrive, our community needs to be an inclusive and equitable place where we can all Expect Success.

Systemically unjust and inequitable access to resources and opportunities present significant barriers to personal and community wellness. The burden of these inequities falls heavily on those individuals who have been historically marginalized. Those most negatively impacted by these inequities have historically been excluded, under-represented, and dismissed in rooms where systemic decisions are made. We as an organization are committed to changing these facts.

We recognize these barriers have a direct impact on individual financial success, employment, physical health, mental health, and numerous other vulnerabilities, resulting in a negative impact on our communities. It is our organizational responsibility to listen, respond, and react to address inequities in our community. We must be united and diligent in our response to ensure we are an inclusive community that fosters equity and a sense of belonging. Four Oaks is committed to confronting these truths and acting as a change agent for our communities.

With this awareness, we affirm our commitment to creating and sustaining an inclusive environment where all staff, children, and families served by Four Oaks, Jane Boyd Community House, and AHNI are heard and supported to ensure success. Please join us in our commitment to making our communities a better place for all to live.

Mary Beth O’Neill
Four Oaks Enterprise President & CEO

Celebrating Achievement

Celebrating Anne Gruenewald’s Retirement & TotalChild’s 10th Anniversary

To celebrate TotalChild’s decade of results for kids, families, and neighborhoods and Anne Gruenewald’s retirement, Four Oaks hosted a celebration event on Tuesday, December 14 for community partners, stakeholders, and donors.

At the event, Anne Gruenewald was recognized for her many years of dedicated service to the organization and attendees heard about what is to come for Four Oaks and TotalChild in the next decade.

Believe in the power of hope this holiday season

It feels like hope is hard to come by these days with the spread of COVID-19 variants, struggles with staffing shortages, coping with the devastation of natural disasters, and more.

While it can be easy to focus on the challenges of this year, we must not lose sight of what truly matters most this holiday season, the power of hope.

No matter the holiday you celebrate or the beliefs you hold close to your heart, we can all unite around the idea of hope.

To have hope is to believe that something better is possible. Hope cannot only help make a difficult situation more bearable, it can also improve our lives by enabling us to envision a better future and motivate us to take action.

We cannot let the challenges facing us deter us from hoping for a brighter future for our children. We need to embrace hope and work together to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community have the supports and resources they need to be successful.

So as we reflect on this year and its many challenges, I encourage you to lean into hope and think about how we can work together to help make a brighter future a reality for the children and families across our community.

Mary Beth O’Neill
Four Oaks Enterprise President & CEO

Growing Our Impact: Housing

The Affordable Housing Network, Inc. (AHNI) works to increase sustainable, affordable housing in both Linn and Dubuque counties. FY21 saw an expansion of these efforts in Dubuque, when AHNI took ownership of and implemented a plan to rehabilitate Bishop’s Block, a 32-unit affordable housing property. The project expands upon the goal AHNI began in 2019 to rehab five Dubuque houses per year through 2024 and make those affordable homes available to low- and moderate-income residents.

To ensure vulnerable individuals have the resources and support they need to maintain stable housing, the Four Oaks Enterprise coordinates affordable housing with intensive case management services. Brigitte Connolly, a Supportive Housing Coordinator and Tenant Relations Specialist, has an office in Bishop’s Block, which helps her meet the needs of a diverse population, including seniors, families with children, and people with disabilities.

For Michael, a Bishop’s Block tenant who is legally blind, this meant helping connect him to employment.

“I tried to get a job but I felt like a lot of people just kind of shut the door on me and didn’t give me a chance because of my disability, not knowing what skills I could bring to the table,” Michael said.

Brigitte, however, was impressed by Michael’s commitment to helping other tenants and ensuring the building stays safe and comfortable for everyone. She connected him to a position with AHNI that provides a stipend—and experience.

“Michael assists the maintenance staff, including cleaning common spaces and taking out the trash,” Brigitte said. Michael has gone on to land two other jobs with businesses in the community.

“I want to say thank you to Brigitte for giving me a chance at this job,” Michael said. “I enjoy helping with the upkeep of the property because this is my home.”

Growing Our Impact: Education

Because students come into the classroom with individual needs, educators and schools are challenged to support students on their unique journey to academic success.

That’s where Four Oaks comes in.

We collaborate with school districts across Iowa to create school-based programs to meet the needs of at-risk students. Our innovative therapeutic classrooms support students who are struggling to regulate their emotions due to mental health and trauma and help prepare them for a successful return to the traditional classroom setting.

In FY21, in partnership with the Garner-Hayfield-Ventura Community School District, we were able to grow our impact by establishing a new therapeutic classroom site in the North Central Iowa community of Ventura, Iowa.

“Meeting the needs of children is more challenging than ever,” Tyler Williams, Former Superintendent of the Garner-Hayfield-Ventura Community School District, said. “Area school districts are thrilled to have Four Oaks as an option to meet these needs.”

For students like “Alex” (not his real name), the Ventura therapeutic classroom has transformed school from struggle to success.

“School was not always a place Alex wanted to be,” Kelli Mitchell, Senior Program Manager, said. “He had difficulty regulating his emotions, which resulted in episodes of physical aggression and running away. Staff worked hard to build a positive relationship with him through patience, consistency, and safety. Co-regulation strategies, social skills and trauma groups helped Alex learn how to communicate his needs and what he is feeling in the moment instead of acting on it.”

Alex now has a positive outlook on school, is able to role-model skills he has learned, and shows pride in his schoolwork.

Growing Our Impact: Mental Health

The past year has been one in which many people have grappled with their mental health and the instability of their environment.

With the pandemic limiting in-person interactions, the Four Oaks Enterprise had to adapt and find new ways to deliver services. Our therapy services pivoted to incorporate virtual therapy as an option in an effort to serve as many as possible despite the limitations facing our staff and clients.

“It provided our children and families with some consistency in a time when there were a lot of unknowns for all of us,” Blake Johnson, a Four Oaks Therapist, said. “Even though it was different meeting someone over a screen instead of real life, there were still a lot of advantages. Most importantly, we were able to see a lot of kids we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.”

“Luke” (not his real name), one of Blake’s youth therapy clients, was grateful for the virtual option.

“My online meetings with Blake are the same as they would be if we were in person,” Luke said. “It was soothing to know that counseling was still an option. Four Oaks has not only helped me to become a better person, but it has also helped me get my relationship with my mother back. Blake is a great counselor and I love meeting with him.”

Growing Our Impact: Workforce

TotalChild® Workforce is an innovative education and training pathway that helps struggling youth achieve educational goals, successfully transition to adulthood, and earn a living wage by age 26.

Although the pandemic created some challenges for enrollment, the TotalChild Workforce team embraced virtual solutions to connect with teachers, businesses and youth. And because younger enrollees are more likely to stay in the program long-term, our partnerships with local high schools are especially critical.

As youth progress through education or training, work-based learning experiences help them explore potential careers. When social distancing halted in-person meetings, volunteers from local businesses led virtual job shadows to help youth develop the skills they will need to succeed in the field of their choice.

Because hands-on experience is one of the best teachers, we partner with businesses like Koch Landscaping and Hauling to offer those opportunities. Several TotalChild Workforce youth have completed internships with Koch and two have been hired full time.

“They’ve impressed me every step of the way,” Owner Travis Koch said. “Just giving them the chance to see what they can do and what they want to do is pretty big. I am so thankful for what TotalChild Workforce does and that I have the chance to meet these kids.”

Celebrating 100 Years of Jane Boyd Community House

In 1921, a forward-thinking teacher and social worker named Jane Boyd founded the Community House—a place where people from the most-vulnerable communities in Cedar Rapids could connect with resources to help meet their basic needs. At a time when federal welfare programs did not yet exist, Jane pioneered a holistic approach to enhance the academic, emotional, and social well-being of children and their families.

“Over time, program offerings have changed,” former Jane Boyd Executive Director Dorice Ramsey said. “The needs from 1921 are very different from the needs of today.”

What hasn’t changed is Jane Boyd Community House’s commitment to remain flexible and respond to emergent community needs.

“Jane Boyd is all about resiliency,” said current Director Megan Isenberg. “During the floods of 2008 and 2017, we opened our doors as a crisis supply center and for drop-in childcare. Throughout the pandemic and the derecho, we adjusted to a constantly changing educational environment and have remained fully operational for in-person programming.”

Community support makes it all possible.

In FY21, with a $25,000 gift from Alliant Energy, Jane Boyd launched a campaign to raise $100,000 in honor of the organization’s 100 years of service.

“We are so fortunate to have partners like Alliant who care deeply about the future of our community,” Megan said. “With the help of our supporters, I look forward to continuing our work of empowering children and families for many years to come.”

Celebrating 10 years of TotalChild

In 2011, Four Oaks radically transformed the way it approached its service delivery.

The organization recognized that in order to better guarantee long-term results for children and their families, it needed to look at the whole child; the TotalChild.

This unique approach to service delivery that addresses four key risk factors in a child’s life, including childhood basic needs, education and work, family, and community, was developed by Four Oaks Enterprise President & CEO Anne Gruenewald, who is retiring in 2021 after 40 years of service to the Four Oaks Enterprise.

Gruenewald realized that human-services agencies had spent too long concentrating their efforts on helping children based on a single factor and instead needed to focus on addressing all the barriers to success that a child may face. She also recognized the importance of helping and monitoring children’s progress into adulthood.

In 2022, Four Oaks is preparing to launch the third phase of TotalChild, designed to reach and maintain health and wellbeing for three generations.

“It’s based on the idea that when children hurdle all obstacles to success, our families, homes, neighborhoods, and communities are stronger,” Gruenewald said. “TotalChild looks broader and deeper at the obstacles facing youth so that we can bring them to stability in the short-term and help them to become successful adults in the long-term.”

After its successful launch in 2011, Four Oaks introduced the second phase of TotalChild, TotalChild Workforce, in 2017 which focused on supporting teens and young adults through high school graduation, into and through post-secondary training or education, and into a stable job and self-sufficiency by age 26.

“TotalChild has transformed the way Four Oaks approaches its service delivery and as we celebrate 10 years of TotalChild this year we recognize and thank, Anne, for all that she has done to ensure the success of Iowa’s children and families,” Lydia Brown, Four Oaks Board Chair, said.

Message from our President & CEO and Board Chair

John F. Kennedy once said, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.”

These words resonate with our mission, which is to assure children become successful adults. The Four Oaks Enterprise recognizes that when children are able to overcome obstacles to success, our families, homes, neighborhoods, and communities are stronger.

When a child or family comes to us, they may be facing a variety of challenges including under or unemployment, mental or behavioral health challenges, lack of parenting skills, unstable housing, poverty and more. Together, Four Oaks, Jane Boyd Community House and the Affordable Housing Network, Inc. (AHNI) are a family of organizations that work together to create a continuum of care that holistically addresses the diverse needs of Iowa’s children and families.

This innovative-collaborative approach, which is based on our TotalChild® service model, has enabled us to create positive long-term results for the children and families we serve as we support them on their journey to achieving stability, self-sufficiency and permanency.

In FY21, Four Oaks, Jane Boyd, and AHNI positively impacted 26,455 children and families across the state of Iowa. We were only able to do so because of the incredible support of our community partners, volunteers, donors, and others like you. Thank you for investing in the success of Iowa’s children and families by supporting us this past year.

With your support, we are creating a community that is committed to allowing our best asset, our children, to succeed and together, we can Expect Success.

Anne Gruenewald
Four Oaks Enterprise President & CEO

Lydia Brown
Four Oaks Enterprise Board Chair