On June 30, 2020, the Des Moines office of Kids First Law Center will split off from the Cedar Rapids office and launch as an independent nonprofit organization. The Des Moines office will become the Iowa Center for Children’s Justice (ICCJ). The Cedar Rapids office will remain the Kids First Law Center.
This decision was made after careful consideration and collaboration by the Kids First Board of Directors in Cedar Rapids and the Des Moines Advisory Board.
The History Behind Two Offices
Since its inception in 2005, Kids First has considered strategic growth a key component to making children’s voices heard across the state. In September 2015, after hearing about Kids First from Linn County judges, Polk County judges contacted Kids First about the possibility of opening an office in Des Moines. A volunteer-led visionary committee in Des Moines was formed in March 2016 to raise $100,000 in seed money.
The seed funding was raised and Kids First Des Moines opened in October 2017. With back office support and the institutional knowledge accumulated by the Cedar Rapids office, the Des Moines office was off to a running start. Revenue for Des Moines supported three full-time employees in its first year of operation and has kept pace with expenses. Like Cedar Rapids, the Des Moines team provides legal representation to children in high-conflict divorce and custody cases. The team also provides educational workshops to every school-age child of divorcing parents in Polk County. Since 2017, the Des Moines team has served over 1,450 children and their families.
Reason for the Change
Polk County and Linn County are two distinct counties with different community needs, court systems and processes, nonprofit sectors, and funding sources. The separation will give Des Moines the autonomy and flexibility to focus on the unique needs of children and the legal community in Greater Des Moines—and to innovate solutions as those needs evolve. Children will benefit from the energy and commitment that local ownership inspires in donors, volunteers and other stakeholders.
Thanks to the generosity and enthusiastic support received from Polk County judges, attorneys, corporations and private donors, the Des Moines team is well-positioned to take this next, important step.
Kids First is proud to have served as a business incubator, supporting the start-up in Des Moines and expanding children’s access to needed services in Central Iowa. Now Kids First cheers on the Iowa Center for Children’s Justice as they establish their own organization and accelerate that momentum.
Our teams will miss our daily contact with each other, but we will continue to collaborate to create systemic change for Iowa children experiencing family separation. Our offices may be separating, but our synergy will endure. Kids First Law Center and Iowa Center for Children’s Justice will continue to join forces to ensure Iowa’s children thrive.
Contributions from Our Donors
We are grateful to our donors and their important partnership. From the beginning, the Cedar Rapids and Des Moines offices have raised the funds needed for their individual offices from each local market. Contributions to the Cedar Rapids office have served children in Linn and Johnson Counties; contributions to the Des Moines office have served children in Polk and Dallas Counties. Any unused funds given to the Des Moines office will be transferred to the Iowa Center for Children’s Justice.
Should you have questions, please feel free to contact Jenny Schulz in the Cedar Rapids office at firstname.lastname@example.org or Diane Dornburg in the Des Moines office at 515-249-7581.