At Four Oaks, we are proud of our history and the roots from which we have grown.

November 1973

“Boys Acres” was developed at a small building in Bertram, Iowa and supported by a group of local businessmen who believed they could make a difference in the lives of children. They helped provide a home-like setting for ten young boys between the ages of 10 and 15 who had no other place to go. They attended school in Cedar Rapids and were involved in extra-curricular activities.


As the new Executive Director, Jim Ernst brought strong leadership and an expanded vision to the organization. The group home program was redesigned to become a residential treatment program for pre-adolescents and was the first of its kind in eastern Iowa. Other services followed that assisted Boys Acres residents to transition back to home or into foster homes.


Beginning in the early 1980s, the agency continued to improve its quality of service to children and families by expanding the types of programs and treatment options available. While maintaining the residential treatment structure, expanded options included the specialized foster care, which offer structured family environments for troubled children when they could not live at home.

The agency changed its name to Four Oaks in 1984 and used the oak tree to represent the family, the community and the agency standing together with the child to build a future strong as the mighty oak. Ensuring the family is included in the treatment of the child serves as the hallmark of the Four Oaks philosophy.

In 1987, Four Oaks broke ground on the Smith Center, the organization’s Cedar Rapids headquarters. Opening in 1988, fifteen children from the Bertram facility were moved to the new Smith Center, and within two weeks, the facility was at capacity serving 40 children.


Four Oaks continued to improve its service by expanding locations as well as the programming it offered to children and families. Throughout this decade, Four Oaks opened new residential treatment locations in Monticello and Independence, and new hubs for community based services and day treatment in Dubuque, Iowa City, Waterloo and Central Iowa.


As Four Oaks entered the new millennium, it began providing much needed prevention services that help kids and families overcome obstacles and avoid the need for intervention and/or treatment services. Four Oaks was able to provide a broad continuum of care ranging from prevention to intervention to treatment.

In 2001, Jane Boyd Community House, the current location of after school and summer prevention programming for youth, became part of the Four Oaks family.

In 2005, a new vision was developed that has become the driving force of the agency. The Four Oaks “Expect Success” vision is an innovative approach to children in order to assure their success in childhood and adult life.

In 2007, the Affordable Housing Network, Inc. (AHNI), an affiliate agency of Four Oaks, was founded. The organization managed the successful Block by Block program in Cedar Rapids in the wake of the devastating floods of 2008.


Four Oaks took child and family care to the next level with the launch of the innovative TotalChild® approach. This comprehensive and long-term approach for helping children and families is based on the idea that when children hurdle all obstacles to success, families, homes, neighborhoods and communities are stronger. This approach is unique in the fact that it helps and monitors children through their 18th birthday. Current President & CEO Anne Gruenewald spearheaded the creation of this new approach.

Present Day and Beyond

Four Oaks continues to expand on the TotalChild® approach throughout its services and locations. The one constant throughout Four Oaks’ long history has been innovation and unique ability to change and evolve to best serve children and families.