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A Look Inside the Forest Ridge Program


Forest Ridge was established in 1983 as a residential foster care facility for at risk youth.

The program, located in rural northwest Iowa, has grown from 12 residential beds to 140 residential treatment and emergency shelter care beds.  An expanded continuum of services has been added which enhance and support the residential programs.

Recognizing  the challenges facing young women today are greater than ever and with increasing national attention to the problems of today’s youth, in 1996 Forest Ridge chose to specialize in Gender Responsive Services for adolescent girls in the juvenile justice system.

Girls in the program focus not just on behavior change but also on positive thinking patterns, healthy belief systems and the development of a positive value system that will provide internal guidance for the students when they leave the program.

Historically, juvenile justice programs were shaped by the needs and experiences of male offenders.  Girls were required to fit into existing service resources that were not equipped to meet the specific needs of girls.  As more and more girls entered the juvenile justice system, emphasis shifted to programming for female offenders that was specific to the unique needs of girls and reflective of the complex issues facing girls in our culture today.

Female Responsive programs are much more than “girl only” environments.

Comprehensive, holistic programming recognizes young women are different than young men and services for them must be different as well.  Every aspect of programming pays attention to what we know about the growth and development of healthy young women.

Students in the Forest Ridge Program live in a socially interactive environment where girls learn to give and receive help from others in a caring way with the guidance of trained staff, through positive role modeling and mentoring.