Four Oaks also uses a holistic approach to addressing children’s needs, which has transformed the organization into a high performance, outcome-based culture.

Many children come to Four Oaks battered and broken. We help them heal in a number of ways. We know that when they are released from our programs, they have reached short-term stability. But how long does that stability last? Will they become successful adults years later?

Four Oaks has been developing and implementing a cutting-edge approach to achieve better, long-lasting results for the increasingly troubled and complex children we serve. With diminishing State and Federal resources, high-need youth and their families’ prospects for long-term success will predictably grow worse. So we set out to create a method that will meet these challenges; we call it TotalChild.


Failure. It is how too many kids in Iowa’s social service system see themselves and their future. It’s also the assumption accepted by nearly every citizen in our state: the vast majority of these troubled kids won’t succeed. As communities, we tolerate low expectations for these children, their families—and of ourselves. The vast majority of children served by nonprofit agencies in Iowa today have multiple risks—and the solutions for these complex circumstances are almost never fully considered. Children with multiple risks are not a single “problem” that can be solved or resolved through analysis or simple cause and effect approaches.



In reality, no one can actually predict which child will succeed or fail. Four Oaks’ mission to assure that every child we serve succeeds as an adult, and our “Expect Success” vision of taking responsibility to make it happen—must be translated into action. Through TotalChild, Four Oaks is implementing a holistic (integrated) way to deliver services that engineers a successful path for every child. We are working to: 1) design a better future for every child by achieving higher-level results, and 2) find cost-effective solutions for success with scarce resources.


Four Oaks’ TotalChild program addresses the key risk and protective factors across four domains: childhood basic needs, education & work, family, and community. The objective is to prove that a holistic approach can achieve positive short and long-term outcomes for multi-problem children and their families. So, for example, we continue to treat a child for behavioral or psychological issues until they reach “stability,” as we have in the past, but under the new approach we then follow the child and their families for many years, to help them avoid crisis and regress, until that child reaches adulthood.