Father Flanagan is one of Nebraska’s most famous and influential residents. Through his work and advocacy in the early 1900s, he changed the way America cared for homeless children.
Unlike the orphanages and work farms of his day, Father Flanagan’s original home in Omaha nurtured the developmental needs of its children. They studied academics, learned marketable skills, and practiced self-government. Thanks in part to Father Flanagan’s eventual Hollywood fame, this approach caught on. He became a high-profile, trusted authority on youth development and a leader in the movement to recognize the universal rights of children. After World War II, he toured Japan and Korea in order to advise Gen. Douglas MacArthur on the care of war orphans. President Truman would later visit the Village of Boys Town to lay a wreath at Father Flanagan’s tomb after his death in 1948.
Today, as the Vatican considers the case for Father Flanagan’s sainthood, more than 600 children each year live in the Village of Boys Town. Their care and therapy combines Father Flanagan’s timeless values with modern behavioral health research. The care model is widely replicated: Boys Town operates programs in nine other states, and hundreds of thousands of social workers, teachers, and parents nationwide rely on training and publications provided by Boys Town every day.