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Children's Home In Knightstown To Become Challenge Academy

Last updated on Wednesday, May 20, 2009

(KNIGHTSTOWN) - The Soldiers’ And Sailors’ Children’s Home in Knightstown will remain a state facility, but with a near-total change in which children it serves.

Effective Saturday, the Indiana State Department of Health will hand off control of Knightstown to the Indiana National Guard, which will make it the new home of its youth challenge academy for high school dropouts.

ISDH Commissioner Judy Monroe says the campus remains open, it's a military focus, at-risk youth are the focus, and the community continues to be involved.

But supporters of the children's home are just as angry as when the state announced plans to close the home earlier this year.

While about 75 16-to-19-year-olds will stay at the Knightstown home for the five-month residential portion of the 17-month academy, about 100 students who now live there during the school year will return home to their families.

Knightstown supporters argue if living at home was an option, the students wouldn't be at Knightstown in the first place.

Department of Child Services Director James Payne says his department and an outside contractor will work with families to provide support services, or, if necessary, new placements.

Legislators had reached a deal to grant the home a one-year stay of execution while a study committee reviewed ways to funnel more students there.

But that proposal was tucked into the budget, and died when the house overwhelmingly rejected the spending plan on the final day of the session.

Lawmakers could try to force the ISDH to reopen the home with its original mission when a special session begins sometime next month.

And supporters have asked a rush county judge to block any shutdown, arguing legislators' intent to keep the home open is clear even though the bill failed to pass.

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