Four Oaks announces launch of TotalChild Program

May 17, 2012

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Four Oaks announces launch of TotalChild Program Four Oaks launched its new TotalChild program today by demolishing an apartment building and showcasing a remodeled home in the Cedar Rapids Wellington Heights neighborhood. TotalChild is a way to help children successfully reach adulthood by addressing several factors, including making sure they have safe and habitable homes. One of the first efforts of TotalChild is to build stronger neighborhoods, and Four Oaks is starting with the Wellington Heights Initiative. 

TotalChild is based on the idea that when children hurdle all obstacles to success, then families, homes, neighborhoods and communities are stronger. TotalChild addresses four key risk factors in a child’s life: childhood basic needs, education and work, family and community. And, it helps and monitors children until adulthood. 

“Human-services agencies have spent too long concentrating their efforts to help children based on a single factor—such as education or the family,” said Jim Ernst, Four Oaks CEO. “But research and experience have shown that long-term success comes when we focus instead on all the barriers to success that a child may face—including a habitable home in a safe neighborhood.”

The Wellington Heights Initiative is one of the first ways Four Oaks will implement TotalChild, and it addresses both childhood basic needs and community. Along with the Affordable Housing Network and the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association, Four Oaks will transform Wellington Heights into a safe place where families can afford and want to live—so children can be successful. It will accomplish this by investing in the neighborhood to renovate existing homes and construct new homes. 

“Four Oaks is financially invested in and committed to long-term neighborhood transformation,” Ernst said. “We’ve been testing a pilot program with 300 children and their families, and we have found that the TotalChild approach works. We’re very excited to begin putting into action this comprehensive plan to make communities stronger.”

A unique aspect of TotalChild is the collaborative approach to finding solutions to the barriers children and families may face.  To date, TotalChild has made more than 100 referrals to 60 other agencies to help children tackle risk factors that stand in the path of becoming a successful adult.        

Four Oaks owns 24 properties in Wellington Heights. Some will be renovated, like the house at 1439 Bever Ave., unveiled today. Others—like the building at 1415 Bever Ave., demolished today—will be rebuilt. The area was selected as the first neighborhood for investment since it represents great need. Thirty of the highest-crime addresses in Cedar Rapids are in this neighborhood. 

“We approached Four Oaks several months ago to explore ways we could foster partnerships to help improve our community,” said Terry Bilsland, president of the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association board. “The Wellington Heights community supports this effort and looks forward to creating a neighborhood of which we can all be proud.”
Bilsland and Ernst spoke at today’s event, along with Tom Jonker, acting chief of police of Cedar Rapids, and City councilman Pat Shey. After the announcement at 1415 Bever Ave., attendees walked down the block to 1439 Bever Ave. to tour the first remodeled home of the Wellington Heights Initiative. 

Four Oaks plans to develop new partnerships and bring this initiative to more neighborhoods in Cedar Rapids. 
“This is what being a ‘city’ is all about—people working toward a better future. It’s this kind of effort that makes the entire city stronger and more vibrant,” said councilman Pat Shey.  “I’m also here to tell you that the City of Cedar Rapids stands behind this effort 100 percent,” Shey said.    

What is TotalChild

TotalChild is Four Oaks’ comprehensive and long-term approach for helping children and families. It is based on the idea that when children hurdle all obstacles to success, families, homes, neighborhoods and communities are stronger. 

TotalChild addresses key risk and protective factors across four parts of a child’s life: 
  • Childhood basic needs – healthcare, housing, food, clothing
  • Education and work – high school graduation and job preparation/training
  • Family – functioning, parenting skills and involvement
  • Community – positive social network, safe/stable neighborhood, access to support services
The TotalChild approach is unique in the fact that it helps and monitors children into adulthood, through their 18th birthdays. For more information please visit  

The Need

Research shows that children in poverty are twice as likely to become high school dropouts and dropouts are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested as adults. 

More than 100,000 Iowa kids live in poverty. 

TotalChild helps families with skills like parenting, financial literacy, job training, housing assistance and education assistance. It produces a cost savings for the public by keeping kids in school and out of drugs and other crime—and can save taxpayers up to $1.7 million over the life of a child.