September marks 132 years of continual service to the Louisville community by Family & Children’s Place. It’s been provided under numerous names but always with one proposition – to give struggling children and families a helping hand up to health, success and happiness.
As times changed, the agency changed. Services and programs were added, adapted and dropped as needed to provide the best continuum of care possible. This stretched from providing coal to keep people warm and food to keep people fed to best in class counseling, treatment and casework for children and families enduring trauma from abuse, neglect, violence, substance abuse, academic and/or economic uncertainties.
It all began in 1883 when the seed that grew into Family & Children’s Place, the Charity Organization Society, was planted in Louisville. Tasked with “coordinating existing charity outlets,” the agency created a Wayfarer’s Lodge for vagrants and a day nursery for children of working mothers – demonstrating early on the compassion and caring the agency is renowned for.
Twenty-four years later, the agency evolved with the times, with a new name, The Associated Charities, and new efforts – continuing to centralize charitable activities, but also creating an “endorsement committee,” to investigate and approve charitable organizations and work, establishing its leadership early on in the community service field.
In 1921, the agency morphed into the Family Service Organization (FSO) and helped develop a more comprehensive approach to tackling factors that contributed to social breakdown in families. Along with treatment services, the agency added preventative efforts to better help families and individuals. The FSO also was a charter member in the birth of the Community Chest, which collected money to support community projects, and was a significant contributor to area needs during the Great Depression.
Following the 1931 passage of the Social Security Act, the agency transitioned from relief to providing professional counseling to families and individuals, and by 1940, professional services were the core of the FSO’s work. This work continued until 1958, when it merged with The Children’s Agency, a child welfare organization created by the merger of The Children’s Protective Association and The Children’s Bureau.
The Children’s Protective Association helped “mistreated children,” and oversaw issues such as street begging, parental neglect and cruelty, while the Children’s Bureau was the first child-care unit in Kentucky to study foster homes and pay board to foster parents for the care of children. The blended agency also served unwed mothers, provided adoption services and was instrumental in winning passage of legislation to benefit children.
The new nonprofit, Family and Children’s Agency now comprised a host of services – counseling for families and individuals, work with older persons, counseling for unmarried mothers, adoption service and foster home placement.
By 1975, the agency absorbed the Travelers Aid Society, which provided social work to vulnerable travelers at train and bus stations and piers, and then in 1990, became the sponsoring organization for Parents United, a program of guided self-help groups, providing support, education and nurturing to those recovering from childhood sexual abuse.
In 1994, the Family and Children’s Agency developed a strategic vision, “Project Neighborhood,” to offer services through neighborhood centers to provide a continuum of care. Service expansions provided more counseling, including case management and more prevention/education services.
In 1997, following a review of the public’s perception of the agency, including awareness and understanding of programs, the board voted to change the name to Family & Children’s Counseling Centers. Three years later, the center absorbed Children First, a child advocacy center providing comprehensive support for children who had been sexually abused.
In 2004, to further increase awareness of and support for the work, the board voted again to change the name, to Family & Children First, and then in 2008, a merger between Family & Children First and Family Place, another nonprofit with a similar mission, created what today is Family & Children’s Place.
In all, 132 years of supportive, sustaining work – a record we are very proud of, and a commitment we will ever keep – giving Louisville area child victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation and their families a place to go to work through and heal trauma. Daily, we supervise safe parent-child visitations; help at-risk families find safe, secure housing; help new parents raise happy, healthy babies; help at-risk youth make better choices; and help students improve grades and behaviors.
The names have changed, but never the focus – to foster and invest in hope with children and families to build better futures for everyone. We’ve built a strong foundation, but truth be told, we’re just getting started and looking forward to many more years of continued, committed service.