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‘Don’t lose hope’: Former orphan visits Children’s Square decades after adoption

Children’s Square USA has been making an impact on the lives of children for almost 140 years, and 91-year-old Cleon Babcock says the nonprofit changed the direction of his life.

In 1934, Babcock was brought to Children’s Square (Christian Home at the time) when he was 4 ½-years-old along with his younger brother — back when it was an orphanage. They spent two weeks there in quarantine because it was unknown if either of them had communicable diseases.


The day they were released from quarantine, a couple showed up to adopt his brother. Babcock said he cried and when the couple found out they were brothers, the couple decided they didn’t want to separate them and adopted them both.

“That’s one time I’m really happy my big mouth got me one of the best things that ever happened in my life,” he said while in Council Bluffs to see the Children’s Square campus for the first time in decades.
Babcock said if it wasn’t for Children’s Square, he would still be swearing, have a quick temper and would’ve ended up in the Fort Madison Penitentiary. His biological mother was not a moral woman and his biological father was a thief, he swore and would beat them every day, he said.
“One day he beat us, walked off across the field, and abandoned us,” he said. “At that time we were living in an old abandoned boxcar.”

Babcock said his new parents were very loving. He never heard his new father swear or tell a dirty story, and he wasn’t a drinker or a womanizer. His new mother was a teacher. The brothers grew up in Farnhamville in central Iowa.

“He was much different than my first father was,” Babcock said. “My parents were well respected in the community.”

As an adult, Babcock became involved with the American Institute of Parliamentarians — a nonprofit organization for the advancement of parliamentary procedure. He then went to an annual session held in Des Moines and was elected to the board.  “I became third, second and first vice president and then I served the international president for two years,” he said. A fond memory Babcock has is the first annual meeting he attended, held in Boston that had its opening session in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. “I got to preside at the speakers stand for that convention,” he said.Babcock is a certified professional parliamentarian.  

Debbie Orduna, president and chief executive officer of Children’s Square USA, said it’s amazing to see how Children’s Square helped children back in the 1930’s compared to how it’s helping children now. “We couldn’t be happier with his visit,” she said. “We are very thankful and blessed.”   

For foster and adoptive parents today, Babcock said to give the kids love. “They need it, they need to know they’re worth something,” he said. “I got love.”

For children who come to Children’s Square today, he said “don’t lose hope.”

“This is where you are now, but what you become is largely up to you,” he said.

Although Children’s Square is no longer an orphanage, the nonprofit cares for children’s and families in need and offers programs and specialized treatment for children with emotional, behavioral and psychiatric needs.

“I’m just amazed and so pleased that (children’s square) exists,” Babcock said. “I know how much I needed it. I know how much the children need it.”

Children’s Square will celebrate it’s 140 year anniversary next year and Orduna said their goal is to make sure it’s there for another 140 years.

For more information on Children’s Square visit


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From right, Sandra Kittle, site director of the Children’s Center at Children’s Square U.S.A., takes the temperature of Rowan Yowell, 1, as Yowell’s mom, Sharly, hugs her before heading to work her shift at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital on Friday.

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Brook Yowell, 7, left, and her brother, Miles 3, dash up to the Children’s Center at Children’s Square U.S.A. as their mom, Sharly, drops them off before heading to work her shift at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital on Friday

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Sandra Kittle, site director of the Children’s Center at Children’s Square U.S.A., right, takes the temperature of Brooke Yowell, 7, as Yowell’s mom, Sharly, drops her off before heading to work her shift at Mothodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital on May 29th, 2020.

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From right, Sandra Kittle, site director of the Children’s Center at Children’s Square U.S.A., gives Rowan Yowell, 1, some hand sanitizer as Yowell’s mom, Sharly, hugs her before haeding to work her shift at Methodist Jennie Edmunson Hospital on May 29, 2020

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Childcare Program at Children’s Square a “silver lining” in dark cloud of pandemic for JE social worker

For Ryan and Sharley Yowell, there was a “silver lining” in the dark cloud of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

For any working couple — Ryan is a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier in Omaha and Sharley is a social worker employed in the Psychiatric Department at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital — childcare is a necessity.

Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, two of the couple’s three children, Miles, 3, and Rowan, 1, had been cared for by an in-home daycare provider in Bellevue, Nebraska, where the Yowells live. Their oldest daughter, Brooke, 7, was a second-grade student in Bellevue.

While their daycare provider, a woman in her 60s, had mentioned the possibility of retirement, there were no definite plans … until the coming of the pandemic. With schools closing and their daycare provider’s decision to move up her plans to retire, the Yowells were faced with the need to provide daycare for their three children.

The “silver lining” came in the fact that both Ryan and Sharley are considered essential workers and, as such, were eligible for free childcare at Children’s Square made possible by the Emergency Childcare Collaborative Fund established by the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation in collaboration with the Iowa West Foundation and the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation, the latter two foundations having joined forces to establish the Southwest Iowa COVID-19 Response Fund.

State-licensed childcare providers participating in the collaborative share staff and locations to serve children, Chris LaFerla, executive director of the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation, said when the collaborative was announced on March 21 after Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered school closings statewide.

“The precautionary measure to close schools during this pandemic is necessary to prevent spread, but we risk losing the life-saving benefit of closing schools if healthcare workers, first responders, and other critical employees are not able to work because they don’t have childcare,” LaFerla said.

Sharley Yowell, who is expecting a fourth child in November, said she would have been “in a pickle” were it not for the childcare available at Children’s Square.

“The impact the availability of childcare through the collaborative had for me and my family was consistency,” she said. “Being able to take all three of my children to the same place every day, knowing they would be open, was a great stress reliever. This also allowed me to continue to work.

“If this childcare collaborative was not an option, I would have likely missed a lot of work, which might have also caused a financial strain for me and my family. Without childcare, I would not have been able to continue working in the same capacity.”

Sharley underscored the fact that having the free childcare available at Children’s Square was a real stress reliever.

“The stress of not knowing where I was going to take my children on a daily basis, not to mention the added stress of higher childcare bills due to my school-aged child being out of school” was substantial, she said.

“Being able to take my children to Children’s Square was not only more convenient for my morning and evening commute — an added plus — but it has also allowed me not to panic about my finances during this pandemic.”

Sharley said she’s been “extremely pleased” with the care her children have received through the program.

“I feel my kids are safe, cared about and are learning,” she said. “I am extremely grateful that this was even an option. I am grateful that I still have a job and that my children have received such excellent care.

“To the partnerships that made this opportunity possible, this emergency fund allowed me to continue my essential work with peace of mind. There are no words that can convey how honored I feel to have been able to be a part of this opportunity.”

Omaha Gives May 15, 2020


Thank you for helping us surpass our goal for Omaha/Pott County Gives!

It is with great joy and gratitude to announce that we exceeded our goal of $25,000 by $2,591, which is a 267% increase over last year! We received our last online gift after 10:00 last night when Omaha Gives!2020 officially ended at midnight.  Woohoo!!!

We have remarkable staff, fantastic donors and a mission that is near and dear to our hearts. Thank you for your participation is so many ways, during a very challenging time.

Click on this link to see the KETV 7 coverage we received yesterday. httpsss://

Debbie Orduna joins Children’s Square as President and CEO

Debbie Orduna, President & CEO Joined Us March 27, 2020

debbie orduna

Debbie Orduna begins her service as Children’s Square’s President & CEO today.  Her appointment was unanimously approved by the Children’s Square Board of Directors at its January 23, 2020 board meeting.  She succeeds Carol Wood who has served in the position since 1992.

Orduna’s 25-year career in the human services field, most recently as the Executive Director of Boys Town-Iowa, brings strong expertise and leadership experience that aligns with the services Children’s Square provides to our community. In addition, Debbie’s involvement within the human services sector for advocacy and system reform of child welfare, juvenile justice, education and behavioral health at local, state and national levels creates opportunities for the future of Children’s Square, as well as for the children and families served.

Orduna is excited to join an organization that so closely aligns with the work, vision and passion that has been the focus of her career. According to Orduna, “Children’s Square has a history of critical programs that instill care, hope, and empowerment to children and families. I am honored to continue this legacy and join the dedicated employees and volunteers who share their passion, expertise, and time to help our community thrive.”

Children's Square is Helping Families and Recognizing Mission Providers, Cheryl Clark Chats on KIOS

by Mike Hogan November 7, 2019