Clarinda Academy

Clarinda Academy


Established in 1992, Clarinda Academy is a long-term residential foster care facility for at-risk and troubled youth, located in a rural setting in southwestern Iowa. It is one of the 72 facilities in Iowa that treat adolescents. Today, Clarinda offers gender-separate residential treatment for up to 250 boys and girls at a time, as well as a day school and weekend programs. Teens receive chemical dependency treatment, when appropriate, as well as schooling and life-skills training.


For both boys and girls, the residential program requires a commitment of four to 12 months and is highly structured. The chemical dependency component of treatment consists of structured outpatient programs that meet for five weeks in both individual and group settings. Sessions focus on education about addiction and recovery as well as relapse prevention, coping skills, family and friends, building a support network, and other common recovery topics.

More broadly, the residential program for boys focuses on achieving “social change through normative culture influence,” by identifying and honing boys’ personal skills, setting and attaining achievable goals, and working with the concepts of empathy, conflict resolution, and problem-solving.

In the later stages of treatment, boys work on their interview skills and put together a discharge plan. The program for girls is designed to help them address and overcome delinquent behavior and process the impact caused by physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Girls can attend courses in art, screen printing, sewing, babysitting, and cooking, as well as training to be a Certified Nurses Aide. There are also group processing sessions on topics such as emotions and self-esteem.

Both boys and girls attend classes on-site for four hours per day, and Clarinda Academy also offers typical extracurricular activities such as athletics clubs, cheerleading, and a choir.


The chemical dependency program is run by certified addiction counselors, and Clarinda Academy also employs a full-time nursing staff as well as teaching staff. Physicians and psychiatric visits can be arranged as needed.


Clarinda Academy houses up to 250 boys and girls at a time. Residents receive three meals and a nighttime snack every day and are required to complete daily chores. The center doesn’t currently publish any further information about its accommodations or amenities. However, the single survey respondent to date, a loved one, gave the program five out of five stars for both its accommodations and its meals and nutrition.

WHAT ALUMNI SAY hasn’t yet polled any Clarinda alumni, but the center has mixed feedback on secondary sites, with a 4.2-star average rating based on six reviews on Google and a single one-star rating on Yelp.[1] [2]

Both of the negative reviews cited understaffing, overworked staff, and a peer-run culture that resulted in unfair treatment of residents. “The staff are often overworked and late to work. this causes an ‘out-of-ratio’ problem. Instead of hiring more staff to solve this problem the staff often work double or even triple shifts,” Michael wrote on Google. However, several other reviewers described how impactful their stay at Clarinda had been, either brightening their teenage years or helping them go on to lead productive adult lives.


Katherine, the parent of a former client polled by, reported that Clarinda Academy helped her son become “the better man he is today.” “They were a big encouragement; I really liked that program,” she added, giving the facility five out of five stars for its treatment effectiveness. However, she also gave the center just one star for its family participation and counseling options.

WHAT STAFF SAY hasn’t yet polled any Clarinda Academy staff, but the center has mixed feedback on Indeed, with a 3.1 out of five-star average rating based on 21 reviews.[3]

The positive reviews reflect a staff that is committed to working with at-risk youth: “Your number one goal is to create a safe and secure place for the children/teens. You get to create a productive life and teach them basic skills,” one former counselor wrote.

However, many staffers described a stressful work environment that made them feel overworked and sometimes unsafe — factors that likely impact the quality of care offered to residents. For instance, one former youth counselor complained of the “Mandatory Overworking of Employees,” and added: “Those who have lasted are those who will do anything in the name of helping children,” a former youth counselor confessed.


There is currently no information provided by the organization regarding its treatment costs. However, the single individual polled by to date gave the center just one out of five stars for its affordability.


Clarinda Academy has hit the headlines a few times in recent years. In both 2016 and 2018, there were local news reports about adolescent clients escaping from the facility. In the 2018 event, the report also claimed that some of the students had assaulted staff members at Clarinda. In August 2014, the Des Moines Register reported: “The Clarinda Academy for troubled youth has repeatedly and routinely failed to provide special-education students with adequate schooling, state investigators say in a strongly worded report.”


Clarinda Academy Reviews

  • Treatment Effectiveness
  • Accommodations & Amenities
  • Meals & Nutrition
  • They were a big encouragement i really liked that program. They didnt allow failure It was my son that was there an it really changed him in yo the better man he is today.