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Joint news release from the Indiana State Department of Health, the Department of Child Services, and the Indiana National Guard
INDIANAPOLIS (May 19, 2009) — The Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home in Knightstown will have a new and larger mission as the home of the Indiana National Guard’s Hoosier Youth Challenge Academy beginning in 2010. The state will proceed with plans to close the school effective at the end of this academic year and convert it for the National Guard program that serves at-risk youth.
This action ensures the facility will remain open, maintain a military connection and serve more children at less cost. Nearby communities also will continue to use the Home’s facilities as they do now, and the National Guard will reach out to the community and other stakeholders to invite them to learn about the Youth Challenge Academy and opportunities for partnership.
“We’re grateful to the Knightstown community, students, staff, alumni, and others who have been associated with the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home. The school has helped many and there are strong and proud traditions that have been built over the years,” said State Health Commissioner Judy Monroe, M.D. “Now, it’s time for a new chapter, one that will bring a renewed spirit and vibrancy to these grounds and continue the important work that has been the foundation of the Home.”
The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home school semester ends this week, and students will return to their homes as they do each summer and during breaks.
The state has contracted with the nationally recognized program Choices, Inc., and representatives are assessing every child and family interested in services to develop an individualized plan for community and educational support. Representatives from Choices also will be on-site for the remainder of the week to assist other parents and guardians who want services. Services will be available through the end of the calendar year and longer, if necessary.
“If there are children who need alternative living arrangements, we will work to make certain no child leaves the Home until those plans are solidly in place,” said Jim Payne, director of the Department of Child Services.
In addition to family and education plans for the Home’s children:
The National Guard Youth Challenge Academy is a 17-month program for youth ages 16 to 19 who have dropped out of high school. The program focuses on structure and discipline with a focus on education and life coping skills. One goal of graduates is to earn a GED. It includes a five-month residential phase. The academy is currently housed at Camp Atterbury in Johnson County but the National Guard needs the program’s current space to expand military training.
“The Indiana National Guard is delighted to have the opportunity to expand this outstanding program dedicated to serving young Hoosiers who need a second chance, and Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home will be a terrific facility for us to grow our program and stay true to the history of the Home’s tradition of military association. We’ll expand and serve four times as many at-risk youth,” said Umbarger. “The Knightstown location will not only allow us to free up space required to support the ever increasing Army training mission of Camp Atterbury, but it will also provide us the flexibility to explore, in partnership with the community, other uses for the site in the coming weeks.”
Eventually, the National Guard plans to double the number of Youth Challenge classes at the Home from two to four each year. The current class at Camp Atterbury has an enrollment of 76 cadets; the program has the capacity to support up to 125 students.
A transition period of about 16 months will be needed to reconfigure some facilities and move the program from Camp Atterbury to the Soldiers’ and Sailor’s Children’s Home. Youth Challenge is 60 percent federally funded and 40 percent state funded. The state’s current share of funding is about $1.2 million annually.
In recent weeks, the governor had asked the Department of Child Services, Department of Health, Department of Education and the State Personnel Department to review the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home closure plans, which had been announced in January. He sought to ensure that plans to transition students, employees and community programs were in place. After receiving updates about services in place to transition students, to offer Home employees other state jobs, to continue the community’s use of facilities, and to learn about the National Guard’s suggested new mission for the facility, the governor accepted the recommendation to close the school and transition it to the National Guard for the Youth Challenge.
Contacts: Jennifer Dunlap, ISDH at (317) 233-7315
Anne Houseworth, DCS, at (317) 234-3924
Deedra Thombleson, Indiana National Guard, (317) 407-7065