Stories from the Network
Cornerstone Family Programs
The Female Charitable Society of Morristown, N.J. (today’s Cornerstone Family Programs) was founded in 1813 in response to the devastation of the War of 1812. The men were all off at war, while the women and children—fast becoming widows and orphans—were left behind. The prominent women of the community believed that the needs of the “deserving poor” were inadequately met by the existing poor laws of the time. These female volunteers literally adopted families street by street, supplying food, clothing, wood, and coal. By 1919, the agency hired its first part-time professional social worker. In 1925, it was among the first family welfare agencies in the country to hire a black social worker.
Today, the mission of Cornerstone Family Programs reflects the same principles as those of the founders almost 200 years ago: Strengthening communities by helping people build better lives.
In fact, the agency is again helping military men and women as well as their families left at home. In 2008, it created the innovative Military Families and Veterans Outreach program. Therapeutic services and resource connections are provided to Morris County families of actively deployed service members, returning veterans, and their families.
Cincinnati Union Bethel
Riverboats plying the Ohio River brought a new population to the growing town of Cincinnati. Cincinnati Union Bethel was formed in 1830 to provide a “means of grace and moral improvement” for the boatmen settling in the river area. Clergymen united to offer religious services to the thousands of crewmen who passed through the town. Recognizing that sailors’ families needed as much care as the sailors themselves, the organization created a Sunday school in 1839 and later began to care for the poverty-stricken children who attended the school.
In 1901, the organization shifted its focus to social work and established the first free kindergarten before there was a public school system. Free dental and health services, legal services and a day nursery were soon added. In 1909, the agency opened the Anna Louise Inn to provide accommodation for young women.
Today, Cincinnati Union Bethel continues to provide early childhood education through Head Start preschool programs. The Anna Louise Inn provides safe, affordable housing for about 250 low-income women each year and offers emergency shelter to homeless families. The agency’s Off the Streets program helps women involved in prostitution move toward safety, recovery, and community reintegration. For more than 180 years, Cincinnati Union Bethel has helped children, families, and communities realize their greatest potential.
Disease Creates Hardships Served by Social Services
The New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor was organized in 1843. It is one of the predecessor organizations of today’s Community Service Society of New York in New York City. The organization established the first public bath houses in the state of New York in 1852 to help stop the spread of infectious disease. The first model tenement was built in 1855, a building with light and fresh air in every unit. After thousands of children across New York died from tainted milk (water was mixed with ground chalk), the association launched the drive that led to pure milk legislation in 1862.
A Milwaukee mother dying of cholera entrusted the care of her seven sons to a diocesan priest, who cared for the boys in his home with the help of his sisters. Their act of charity alerted Milwaukee’s bishop, John Martin Henni, to the plight of children orphaned by the cholera epidemic. In 1849, Bishop Henni founded St. Aemilian’s Orphan Asylum in Milwaukee. In addition to tending to their studies, boys were expected to wash dishes, sweep and polish floors, and make their own beds. A high priority was placed on outdoor recreation and holiday programs. The orphanage eventually was replaced by foster care and therapeutic services. Today, St. Aemilian-Lakeside in Milwaukee offers a continuum of education, therapy, support, and prevention services.
Leake & Watts Services
The nonsectarian Leake & Watts Orphan House (today’s Leake & Watts Services in Yonkers, N.Y.) was created in 1831 in response to the city’s burgeoning immigrant population. It was one of the first private charitable institutions in the country devoted to children in need. Founders and business partners John George Leake and John Watts, Jr. were at the forefront of a social responsibility movement that gave birth to many orphanages and other social service agencies in the decades to come. Most children came to the orphanage when they were young and left when they finished their schooling.
In the Progressive Era of the early 1900s, the philosophy had shifted to providing children with a less institutional, more home-like environment. Leake & Watts Services introduced the cottage system, with six cottages serving 10-30 girls each. Cottage “parents” guided the girls. This model remains the basis of today’s residential treatment center, which integrates residential and therapeutic services for youth.
By 1937, the agency had established a social services department with social workers to address the therapeutic needs of those in care. In 1944, Leake & Watts began placing children in foster homes throughout the community. Today, the agency provides a continuum of care, from early childhood education and prevention services to therapeutic residential care and a secure juvenile detention facility.