An early history of the Children’s Home and Children’s Aid Society in Clearfield County
Children’s Aid Society was organized in October 1890 as the first child welfare agency in Clearfield County. The Society was created to place children in suitable homes and to prevent these orphaned children from spending their young lives in the poor house. Visiting homes throughout the county was tough in horse and buggy days, especially in bad weather. As the number of children increased, a children’s home seemed to be the best solution.
In 1915, the Society rented a small house on Spruce Street and equipped it to house 10-20 children with Mrs. Kelso as matron. The small house was soon outgrown. As a result, in 1917, benefactors Asbury W. Lee and John Wrigley anonymously built the Children’s Home for the Society. The home was called the Mystery House while being constructed, as no one knew the builders or its purpose. The building was presented to the Society in July 1918 with the stipulation that it always serve children, and it was named the Children’s Home.
Due to a request by the Board of Health, the first use of the building was as an emergency hospital in 1918 during a flu epidemic that lasted several months. The first regular residents of the Children’s Home moved in during May 1919, with Miss Grace Hoyt, and later, Miss Mary Pope, as matrons.
Several auxiliaries of Children’s Aid Society were organized in various parts of Clearfield County. The branches were helpful in fundraising, investigating homes, and visiting and keeping in touch with children placed in their communities. Finances were always challenging. Fundraisers and bequests brought in help as needed to purchase bonds. In the early 1950s, the last of the bonds had been sold, and the agency bank balance was down to $75. The public was notified, and with no organized solicitation, $7,500 was raised.
The Home often had 40 or more children in residence and 20 or more in foster/adoptive homes. Boys were placed in Girard College or Hershey School, and Girls were placed in Carson College or the Indiana Industrial School for Girls. Several of these children spent their vacations at the Children’s Home. In the first 50 years, the Society cared for approximately 1140 children.
By 1979, the agency recognized the need to provide smaller bedrooms. They added a third floor for girls and kept boys on the second floor. The project was completed in 1980. There was then a national movement to transfer children to foster homes from orphanages. By 1983, the children in the home had been moved to other homes. The agency built a small residence for special needs children. It was later taken on by Goodwill and then bought by Bethphage.
Changing with the times
Rather than close Children’s Aid Society, the board sought to become a formal adoption agency to help find loving families for children in need. A formal license application was submitted in 1985. As a result, the first adoption happened in 1986. Currently, the agency provides home studies for families in 14 counties for private, special needs, and international adoption.
In 1986, the agency was approached by Partners With Youth of DuBois and asked to take on the program. As a result, they converted the program to Big Brothers Big Sisters in 1991. In 1989, a child care program was started for children from birth through kindergarten age. A school-age program began in 1996 and a second school-age program also began at Clearfield Elementary in 1998.
Finally, in 1996, the administration building was purchased and renovated. Consequently, it was occupied in January 1997. Family-based programs included Nurturing and Parents Anonymous both started in 1995, and FAST (Families and Schools Together) started in 2000. Collaboration with Head Start in 2001 called for the expansion of one classroom, as well as provision of child care before and after Head Start. The renovation project was designed to make the former Children’s Home building work more functionally as a Child Care Center.