Early in the 1970's, a group of Statesville citizens became outraged when Iredell County children, who as victims of abuse and neglect, had no place to go besides a jail cell. This occurred when there was no other appropriate family members to provide safety and stability during family crisis, or there were no foster homes available for placement, then a jail cell was the only answer.
As a result of this outrage, efforts made by Louise Doyle, Barbara Dearman, David Eisele and other concerned citizens produced the concept of a home where abused, neglected and dependent children would have a safe, nurturing place to live as opposed to a cold jail cell. Aside from the trauma of separation, the stigma and confusion created by placement in a cell serves to make the child feel even more that they are to blame. This group of citizens sought to rectify that injustice; their determination was to provide a safe haven during this time of chaos giving Iredell County DSS an opportunity to focus their efforts toward resolution of the family situation.
The non-profit organization was chartered in November 1972 and funds were raised through contributions to purchase the first house, later known as The Dearman Home. This home opened in 1972 and cared for five children. As a result of the need in the community to provide safety during traumatic times for children in crisis, this home was at capacity all of the time with no option for other placement. It was evident there was a need for a second home for children with no other place to go. The second home, which became known as The Doyle Home, was purchased with the financial support of Iredell County budget funds and staffed for operation in July 1988 serving a total of 12 children and youth.
During 2005-2006 we turned away 42 children because the two homes were at full capacity. Our Board, once again, saw the need and began the process to seek support to open a third home. October 1, 2007, we broke ground on what is now the Eisele Home and celebrated the open house on August 14, 2008 increasing our capacity to serve 18 children and youth. We were certain we had fulfilled the need and were done. In June of 2009, Iredell DSS experienced an increase of 44% of children coming in to care. As in other times of crisis, our Board moved into action and secured a fourth location to serve just until the economy improved. Fortunately, as in the past, God provided a way for us to open the fourth home, permanently expanding our capacity to serve 24 kids. The Koepnick Home opened November 9, 2009 giving us four locations to offer a homelike, nurturing environment for children to be safe.
In July 2010, the Doyle Home was re-licensed as our Transitional Living Home serving youth 17 to 21 on a path to independent living. We changed the capacity to serve 4 youth, reducing the total agency capacity to 23. Throughout the years, the neighborhood that the youth in the Doyle Home was located presented safety issues for our children and youth. The issues of crime, unsavory individuals living next door where our kids reported observing drug buys, heard fights and inappropriate language only substantiated the reasons they came in to care. In their mind, they were no safer there than they were in their own homes. In October of 2015, after years of effort and prayer for a new home for our Transitional Program, we located and were blessed with the ability to purchase a larger home in a more family oriented neighborhood where our youth are proud, safe and working toward their future. With this home, we were allowed to add one more bed to our capacity increasing our ability to serve 5 transitional youth ages 16 to 21.
Our need and desire to fully serve children in out of home placement brought our program to make a change in service to children placed in our care. During our time with children in our care, we saw so many return over and over again. Since inception of our agency, our placement capabilities were only temporary 90 day placement. When we saw how difficult it was for children to separate from people they came to care about, we determined there were changes necessary. This was also complicated by the court process which took so long to reach even initial decisions relative to protection of the child. We submitted our request to provide care for longer terms for children and in May 1998, the Dearman Home became licensed to care for children for up to two years. This reduced disruption in placements for a child in the process to reach resolution and permanence. The continuing need for children to have stability during a very traumatic time moved our Board to make appropriate changes to meet this need. Effective May 2001, we changed our name to The Children’s Homes of Iredell County, Inc. which more adequately describes what we are. Effective November 22, 2001, both homes were serving children on a long term.
With this change, our ability to serve their needs increased for an extended period and was appropriate to resolve the family issues that brought them into
care. Longer term placement also allows the Department of Social Services to develop and implement a plan to secure permanence for the child in the event the family issues cannot be resolved to the best interest of the child. Whether that means the resolution of family issues and reunification or maintaining stability for them during the transition and work toward adoption appropriate to each child’s needs. No matter which home a child enters, they are considered to be “at home” as any other child. They become “our children” and we advocate for them as we do our own children.
The Children’s Homes of Iredell County, Inc. is licensed bi-annually by the State of North Carolina, Division of Social Services to ensure they are efficient and up to current licensing standards. The sole purpose of our agency is to provide stability for children in traumatic situations. We have attained accreditation through the Council On Accreditation representing our standard for excellence in care for children and youth in need.
Our Board of Directors consists of local citizens who volunteer their time and efforts to oversee the operation of all facets of the Children’s Homes of Iredell County, Inc. day to day operations are monitored by the Executive Director responsible for ensuring compliance in all areas of licensure and accreditation.
Our Residential Program Manager is responsible for staffing, training and supervision of the program reporting to the Executive Director. Our homes are staffed with direct care house parents on duty to care for children 24 hours a day promoting a family style, homelike environment. Relief assistants provide care during the absence of full time staff during off time to provide consistency of care.
Placement decisions to accept placement is made by the Executive Director based on the needs of the child and the ability of our agency to provide appropriate service and care to the child. There are times that children are not placed based on their needs and our ability to serve them appropriately.
The hope for peace and stability for children during times of trauma is the focus of what we do each day. The child that we care for today may one day be the person who decides what may happen to us. We would hope that they would have memories of compassion and care to draw from to deal with another in a crisis. If they are not shown compassion and caring, there will be no way for them to conceive of it for anyone else?
Our success in what we are striving for with them will be our community’s future; the children that we care for today are our future, what will it be? The decision is truly in the hands and the hearts of our community.
Thank you for your consideration of our efforts for children and youth without a choice or a hope for a future.