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Poverty

[Our Metropolis]

Beyond Father Flanagan

Boys Town Nevada survives and thrives

Audio Clip

Our Metropolis with Tom Waite

This is an excerpt from the radio show Our Metropolis, a half-hour issues and affairs program that airs Tuesdays at 6 p.m. on KUNV 91.5-FM and is hosted by Greenspun Media Group’s John Katsilometes. Tune in next week to hear the rest of this interview with Tom Waite, CEO of Boys Town Nevada, which in 2007 provided assistance to nearly 900 children and more than 200 families in Southern Nevada:

Most people have been made aware of Boys Town, at least initially, through the famous 1938 movie starring Spencer Tracy as Father Edward J. Flanagan and Mickey Rooney as one of the Boys Town residents. What type of influence has that film had, and was it an accurate depiction of Boys Town?

It’s changed a lot, obviously, over the years, but Boys Town is committed to helping kids ... become better members of society … In 1980 girls were having more of an issue in society at large, so we expanded our services to include them. It was based on need … But the sense that Boys Town is a Catholic organization is a misnomer. We serve all religions.

You started your career at the original Boys Town, in Omaha, Nebraska, and you and your wife have actually served as foster parents, right?

We took over one of the family homes there ... to take care of 10 delinquent boys who were all great kids who were struggling but willing to learn. This was in 1977, and since then I have served Boys Town in many different capacities … For me, I grew up in the ’60s, in the social-consciousness era, and I had a great upbringing—five of us in our family—and my dad’s a doctor who cared for others. I became interested, in my college years, in how kids became delinquent and deviated and drifted toward the negative side. When I found out what Boys Town was, and what they did, I couldn’t believe they pay people to do this. It’s a real calling.

How do couples qualify as family teachers at one of your treatment homes?

You have to find not one person, but two people who are going to be willing to give up their lives and give up all their privacy on a day-to-day basis, 24/7, in a home. It’s a full-time job for them—every morning you wake up and there are six kids there who you didn’t have before you started this process. A college education can be helpful, to help tutor children and have good judgment when dealing with young kids, but generally the couples tend to be younger couples with a high level of energy who have a passion for working with children. We provide all the training, and it’s really a cookie-cutter approach, because the Boys Town model has been researched and designed for years. If the couple implements the program exactly as they are trained and supervised, it’s guaranteed to be a success.

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