The early 1900s was an extraordinarily difficult time in America. Tuberculosis, also known as The Great White Plague, took tens of thousands of lives and left many children without parents. This time is known as the Progressive Era and many people came forward to form a safety net around the children who had been orphaned and displaced because of the plague. A group of Presbyterian pastors in Missouri’s Lead Belt were part of that group of caring people who, in 1914, formed Elmwood Presbyterian Orphanage in Farmington, Missouri.
The first children came to the orphanage in 1915. The orphanage struggled financially until 1917 when Potosi Presbytery and the Synod of Mid-America lended their support. It was then renamed Presbyterian Orphanage of Missouri. Within 20 years, the Presbyterian Orphanage had raised enough funds to build a stately administration building. For many years that building, along with several homes for children, comprised what was known as the “Town Campus” in Farmington. By 1942, the organization purchased an 85-acre farm to raise food for the children. This became known as the “Farm Campus.” The children worked in the garden and helped take care of 20,000 chickens.
In the 1950s, new homes for children were built on the Farm Campus and in 1952 the Presbyterian Orphanage became the Presbyterian Home for Children. Five years later, Camp Jennings was constructed and served as a country retreat for the children.
In the mid-1960s, the Presbyterian Home for Children staff began working with children who had more severe emotional and mental health issues. The staff began to involve parents more deeply in the healing process of the children, and by the mid-1970s, a casework office in St. Louis was added to the residential care services at the Farmington campus.
A group of volunteers in Springfield founded the Regional Girls’ Shelter for troubled teenage girls in 1979 . The shelter was added to the agency’s growing list of programs and Presbyterian Home for Children became Presbyterian Children’s Services (The Regional Girls Shelter is now called Ashley House and is a transitional living facility for children who are aging out of foster care).
The Midwest Learning Center opened in Farmington in 1996 to provide diagnostic and intensive psychiatric treatment for children with a high level of clinical care needed. The center also housed a school for the children. The center is one of four cutting-edge PCHAS residential treatment centers in Missouri.
Foster Care Case Management Services have been provided since 2005 for clients of Missouri Alliance for Children and Families. Using a team approach and working with others involved in the child’s care with parents, foster parents, therapists, the court system and others, our foster care case managers work diligently to find safe, permanent homes and foster homes for children.
Presbyterian Children’s Services became Children’s Foundation of Mid-America in 2009 and Family Solutions for Kids, an in-home preventative family preservation program, was formed in 2010.
Children’s Foundation of Mid-America affiliated with Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services in 2013. Read more about the affiliation.
We celebrated 100 years of service in 2014, and today we serve more than 2,200 children and families throughout the state of Missouri at five locations: St. Louis, Springfield, Columbia, Joplin and Farmington. Our services have greatly expanded over the 100 years. We now offer: Residential Treatment, Therapeutic Mentoring, Transitional Living, Family Solutions for Kids and Foster Care Case Management.
With the generous help of our donors, partners, supporters, clergy, Presbyterian congregations and many groups like Kiwanis, Rotary clubs and more, we are proud to continue providing these stellar, customized services to thousands of kids and families every year. We take great pleasure in knowing our work contributes to the communities in Missouri and the betterment of society by strengthening families and healing and empowering children.