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Children’s Square U.S.A. in the news!

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Thursday, August 3, 2023

Alters Hosts Car Show to Benefit Children’s Square

Council Bluffs, Iowa (August3, 2023) – A car show hosted by Alter Metal Recycling – Council Bluffs on June 11, 2023 at the Lewis Central Middle School in Council Bluffs resulted in a donation of $4,460 to Children’s Square. Representatives from Alter visited Children’s Square on August 2nd to present the donation to Phil Taylor, Chief Administrative Officer at Children’s Square.

Pictured from left to right are Alter Metal Recycling – Council Bluffs representatives David Snyder, George Casady and Scott Johnson; and Phil Taylor, Chief Administrative Officer at Children’s Square.

Children’s Square has operated in Council Bluffs, Iowa for 140 years, caring for children and families in need and teaching skills for hope and opportunity. Over 1,000 children and families in Iowa and Nebraska are served each day through mental health services and treatment, early childhood care and education programs, an Emergency Shelter for children, residential treatment for children and adolescents, and support of foster and adoptive families.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Hiring blitz aims to serve more children with mental health challenges in Council Bluffs


Viv Ewing will tell you shaping the life of a child has consequences far into the future.

“You have the opportunity to change that person’s life for the better and there’s nothing more enjoyable to know you made a difference,” said Ewing, President and CEO of Children’s Square, a child welfare and mental health treatment facility in Council Bluffs.

The small non-profit agency serves about 1,500 children a year.

Children’s Square is in the middle of a hiring blitz in order to offer more services to the young people it serves. Ewing said they’re hiring a variety of positions from nurses to psychiatric services, family support workers, human resources, and shelter supervisors.

To see the jobs available, click here:

The 9-acre campus in Council Bluffs hosts one of the area’s residential psychiatric treatment centers for children up to age 17. Ewing said there are 9 young people on the waiting list, trying to get a bed in the facility. It’s a 24 hour a day program that lets children stay for months to work through therapy, medication management and skill building. Once children finish the program, they can transition back to their families who are also working on making the family unit stronger.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Lemen Family hold Reunion

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa. Pictured below are descendants of Rev. J.G. Lemen, the founder of Children’s Square in Council Bluffs.  The Lemen family members enjoyed a reunion on campus, viewed historical artifacts, and discussed the history of Children’s Square.  The group included relatives from Texas, Washington state, Michigan, New Mexico, Council Bluffs, and Omaha.  The Lemen family reunion was the first of its kind to be held at Children’s Square.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, July 27, 2023

Over 250 Participate in the Children’s Square Walk for Mental Health!

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (Dec 21, 2022)—Children’s Square U.S.A., a 140-year-old organization that serves children with mental and behavioral health needs hosted its First Annual Children’s Square Walk for Mental Health on Saturday, July 22, 2023 at the Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park in Council Bluffs, IA.

Over 250 participants enjoyed a walk across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, a free pancake breakfast, face painting, a Council Bluffs Fire Department truck and a Council Bluffs Police cruiser, therapy pets, Chalk the Walk and other activities, and 15 mental health resources and booths.

According to Children’s Square Chief Administrative Officer, Phil Taylor, the Walk for Mental Health was a success. “Our goal for this first Children’s Square Walk for Mental Health was to raise awareness of the importance of mental health care, have fun and fellowship, and enjoy great outdoor physical activity,” Taylor said. “I’m thrilled to say we accomplished these goals- and more – thanks to our event sponsors, the organizations who provided activities or mental health resources, and most importantly, the community who came out in large numbers to support this event.”

Participating sponsors included CHI Health Mercy Hospital, Mutual of America Financial Group, Judd Knispel Agency (State Farm Insurance), FAMILY, Inc., Family Connections, United Rent-All, Woodmen Life, Chase Bank Council Bluffs, Integrated Solutions, Council Bluffs Fraternal Order of Police and Lutheran Family Services. The Chairman of the Walk for Mental Health was Bruce Lemen, the great-great grandson of Rev. J.G. Lemen, who founded Children’s Square in 1882.

The event would not have been possible without strong support from local businesses and organizations, according to Taylor. “We are so thankful for our sponsors and their commitment of time, energy, and resources to help make the first Children’s Square Walk for Mental Health a great success!”

While a date has not been set for the 2024 Children’s Square Walk for Mental Health, Taylor indicated the event will likely be held in July, 2024, and his team is working on ways to grow and improve the event. “We received some valuable feedback about this year’s Walk for Mental Health from sponsors and participants,” Taylor said. “We will incorporate that feedback into our plans for improving the 2024 Children’s Square Walk for Mental Health. We plan to grow the number of sponsors, activities, and people we touch and impact we have with these valuable mental health resources.”

Dr. Viv Ewing President & CEO Children’s Square USA talks about the organization turning 140 years old!

Watch the video….

Children’s Square celebrates 140th anniversary with reception, program

Children’s Square USA celebrated its 140th anniversary Friday with alumni, community members and descendants of the organization’s founders, the Rev. Joseph G. and Florence Lemen.

“We’re really proud of the rich history we have in the community in regard to improving the lives of children,” said Viv Ewing, president and CEO.

The mission began on Dec. 23, 1882 when the Lemens took in the three daughters of a poor widower who had lost his wife and his job in the wake of the Flood of 1881 and insisted that he could not properly care for them. More children followed, and soon the Lemens were operating a refuge for the orphaned and destitute.

On March 16, 1883, the Council Bluffs Home of the Friendless Association was incorporated, and Joseph Lemen resigned his pastorate 18 months later to concentrate on the home’s mission. The organization later became the Christian Home Association-Children’s Square USA.

Margaret Lemen, who was married to the late David Lemen, great-grandson of the founders and the last member of the Lemen family to serve as CEO of the Christian Home Association, shared some of her memories of the campus. When they moved to a house on campus, there were two big dormitories — one for boys and one for girls — a large administration building, a cafeteria and kitchen and the chapel.

Margaret Lemen said Children’s Square has always had “excellent leadership.” That continued after administration was handed off to people outside the family. She noted that, under Carol Wood, the doors were replaced with cottages, “which was a much better atmosphere for children.” Wood worked at Children’s Square for 48 years — the last 28 as president and CEO.

Margaret Lemen also expressed confidence in Ewing’s leadership.

“She has jumped right in and provided excellent ideas and leadership,” she said.

Bruce Lemen, son of David and Margaret, said what struck him about his father working at Children’s Square was the “service aspect.”

“My dad really loved working at the Christian Home,” he said.

Bruce Lemen said it taught him how important it is to help others.

“What would have happened to those three kids if J.G. (Lemen) had not answered the call? If God’s putting something on your heart to do something, there’s a reason for that,” he said.

Todd Lemen, nephew of David and Margaret, grew up in Omaha but remembers visiting them at Children’s Square.

“As a child, I came to understand the word ‘orphanage’ while riding home back to Omaha,” he said.

Todd said his parents told him it was a privilege and responsibility to care for orphans.

“If faith without works is dead, then faith with works and action is very much alive,” he said. “What you do has the potential to last. I wake up in the morning, and one of the first things I’ve learned to do is to ask ‘what can I do to be of best service to the people you put in front of me today?’”

Children’s Square, its board and its staff have exemplified that, Todd said.

The organization, headquartered in Council Bluffs with an office in Omaha, serves over 1,000 children and families every year, according to information from Children’s Square. Programs include childcare and preschool, mental health counseling services, emergency shelter services for children, a special education program for children in first through 12th grade, residential treatment for children and adolescents experiencing serious emotional and mental health challenges, foster care, adoption and aftercare services for young adults who have aged out of foster care. In addition, Children’s Square recruits, trains and supports resource families that provide foster, adoptive and relative care throughout Southwest Iowa and the Omaha metropolitan area.


Children’s Square, Lutheran Services team up to find foster children homes

Lutheran Services in Iowa and Children’s Square USA have partnered to find children in foster care in the Council Bluffs area a home this holiday season.

“Partnering with an agency as well known as Children’s Square in the Council Bluffs area has been a huge help to find children homes,” said Dawn Luetje, director of resource family licensing and support at LSI.

Hundreds of children across Iowa are waiting in foster homes, according to a press release from LSI.

LSI offers individuals the necessary resources to become foster care and adoptive parents in the State of Iowa, according to a press release from LSI. The organization’s state contract covers 30 of Iowa’s western counties and partners with many different agencies across its territory.

“Over 20 kids are waiting for placement in the Council Bluffs area,” said Jonathan Holland, chief program officer. “The goal is to find these kids homes. The Home for the Holiday campaign has been great in helping us achieve our goal of not having any kids waiting for placement this holiday season.”

“We’re currently hoping we’ll attract people this holiday season who will attend our orientation classes,” said Dawn Luetje, director of resource family licensing and support at LSI.

A free Foster Care and Adoption Orientation session will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4 at the Charles E. Lakin YMCA, 235 Harmony St. in Council Bluffs.

For those unable to attend the in-person orientation, an online Foster Care and Adoption Orientation session will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10. Western Iowa is in need of more foster and adoptive homes. In this orientation, you will learn about the process of becoming a Resource Parent (foster, adoptive or kinship parent) for a child or teenager. This short orientation will provide you with a space to ask questions and discover if this is a need that your family would love to help fill.

For more information or to register, contact Samantha Shermer at or 712-263-9341, ext. 5387.

‘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://

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

by Mike Hogan November 7, 2019