Traci Smith has been an aftercare subcontractor – 9 years – July 2015

Joni Griffin
Children’s Square – Aftercare Subcontractor and TPI supervisor for program – 12 years – Nov. 2014

Deb Smith

Children’s Square – Aftercare subcontractor and TPI administrator for program – 13 years – April 2015

(Atlantic) The Scary Guy with a mission of eliminating hate, violence, bullying, and prejudice, worldwide, and an expert in eliminating bullying in schools and corporations, will begin his ten- stay in Cass County beginning this week.

Wendy Richter, Director of the Family Crisis Support Network and a member of the Cass County Child Abuse and Prevention Council says, they started looking at issues of bullying and harassment a couple of years ago.

“Local agencies were getting calls from parents of children that were being bullied or being bullying themselves, and wanted to know what could be done.”

That’s when Richter and others realized there weren’t any resources available for that specific issue. So they began to search for some answers.

“The reality is that there are local kids that are crying out for help, either literally or behaving in ways to mask the problem which then has a negative impact on someone else,” stated Richter. “So in our research we found Scary who was actually introduced to us from one of the local schools who wanted to bring him in several years ago, but couldn’t afford it.”

So Richter says they made it their goal to get him here even though it carried a price tag of around $26,000. But they raised the funds and here he is.

“He told us upfront that his message isn’t just about bullying, it’s about violence prevention and there are conflict resolution skills that are being taught,” said Richter.

“Which are things that our kids need to know. He also told us that he doesn’t like it when schools, communities, or individuals label kids bullies.”

The Scary Guys appearance hasn’t been without some controversy, in fact some parents have commented that they plan on leaving their child home from school during days he is scheduled to appear. Richter admits the reality is the parents have a choice and they can choose to keep their kids home from school.

“However, isn’t that the beginning stages of harassment or bullying? Is this an example of judging and putting labels on people because of how they look?”

Richter says the goal is for the Scary Guys message to challenge students, teachers, administrators, parents, business owners and bosses to think about what they say and do and what impact that has on another individual.

The Cass County Child Abuse Prevention Council, has worked with the County Supervisors and have proclaimed the 2014-2015 School Year as “Violence Prevention in Cass County Schools Year.”

Tom Robinson
August 25, 2014
a.m. news

Julie Oliver, advocate for Therapy Place Inc., a subcontractor of Children’s Square

Q: How long have you been working in the field and how long have you been an advocate in Aftercare. A: I have been working in the field of helping youth on a part time basis since 1997. I have been a part time Aftercare Advocate through Therapy Place/Children’s Square since 2007.

Q: What made you decide to become an Advocate? A: My sister was one of the first advocates, and still is. Her name is Joni Griffin. She is wonderful and I always admired her work and everything about her. She was/does really make a difference in these kids’ lives! When I earned my degree in Psychology, I applied and began giving to these youth too!

Q: What keeps you motivated or excited about working with youth? A: It motivates me to see a youth achieve a goal, or even just one action step. I really try to compliment and lift them up with each accomplishment, even if they just made a phone call on their own behalf, and I see the look in their eyes, like “I can really do this … I’m going to be okay!” Sometimes they think I’m a bit goofy for congratulating them on that accomplishment, and we laugh about it, but still … the look is there.

Q: What is your favorite part about being an advocate or favorite memory? A: One of my favorite memories of being an Advocate is when I attended one of my youth’s college graduations out of town. He was so proud of himself and excited to see me there. My son and I sat with his family, and they cried and cheered, and my 11-year-old son and I cheered and yelled right alongside of them! Another emotional memory with the same youth (not a favorite), was when he got himself a puppy – the first pet he ever owned. It made him so happy and he was so sweet and gentle with this little doggie. Then his puppy got hit by a car and died. He called me crying, and I cried with him. We had a long discussion about our thoughts on Heaven. So emotional!

Q: Do you have a success story/or challenging story you would like to share? A: One of the youth that I served (different from above), graduated college with a Human Services degree, and is now an Aftercare Advocate! Love her! She’s so awesome! She has gotten married and is considering starting a family. She’s going to be a wonderful mother, even though she faced such turmoil with her own family. I just know it!

Joni Griffin, BA and Aftercare Supervisor for Therapy Place, Inc. was honored on 1/21/14 for her work in the Youth Foster Care Council by developing and promoting the Elevate Program in SW Iowa now known as AMP.  She received a plaque in recognition of her hard work presented to her by Children’s Square U.S.A.  She was recognized earlier in the month at Children’s Square U.S.A. where she received a certificate of appreciation during a luncheon held on 1/08/14.  Joni is recognized as a leader in the state for her work with aftercare and working with youth aging out of foster care.

Who’s Who in IASN

Deborra Smith is a supervisor at Therapy Place (a subcontractor of Children’s Square). She was the first Aftercare worker for Children’s Square U.S.A. when the program started in 2002.

Deborra lives in the small town of Panama, Iowa, with her husband, Steve. They have a daughter, Traci, the mother of her grandkids – or better known as her “gifts from God” – Joshua, age 12, the twins Jarrit and Jacob age 10, and her only grand-daughter, Jaci, age 9.

Deborra’s favorite place to vacation is the Black Hills in South Dakota. She has always wanted to see the Great Pyramids in Egypt and Mt. Everest in Napal. An interesting fact about Deborra is that she won the “Tom Lewis” award presented by the Iowa Coalition for Children and Families in 2007.

Posted in the Iowa Aftercare Services Network Newsletter November 1, 2013

Mike Barker – Children’s Square

“The Blast” Newsletter 10-1-2013

  • I was at an Iowa Children’s Justice Summit in Des Moines last week. Judges, attorneys, school personnel, mental health practitioners and juvenile court officers were all in attendance. Over and over it came up from nationwide presenters and participants in the Summit that Iowa Aftercare services was one of the best transition programs in the nation and was a model for other states. Our agency provides this service for youth who have aged out of foster care, for 21 counties in western Iowa. Mary Elks supervises this service, Carol Marker and Jen Sjuts provide the service in the northern counties out of our Sioux City office and we subcontract with Southwest Iowa Families and Therapy Place for the service in the southern counties. I was proud that our organization is involved in these services.