In the fall of 1888, a family from Somerset traveled to England. While visiting they heard about a private group of English citizens caring for the poor children living on the streets. The group called themselves the Children's Aid Society of London. Upon the family's return, a group of ladies met and discovered that there were children suffering in Somerset County and being placed in the County Poor House. Tiny babies and small children were being raised with adults with physical and mental difficulties. These valiant ladies investigated this Society idea and learned that some Eastern Counties in Pennsylvania had formed their own Children's Aid Society's in the early 1880's so they visited and wrote to York, Franklin and Philadelphia Counties.
On May 1, 1889 in the Park Hotel, Somerset Pennsylvania the Children's Aid Society of Somerset County was formed. The objectives of the Society (in 1889) was "to assist the children of the poor and unfortunate, find them comfortable homes to save children from the taint of the County Poor House stigma and to see that the crippled and diseased children are removed to institutions where they will receive proper professional attention."
With the organization of the Children's Aid Society of Somerset County, when a child under two years of age was received into the County Poor House, the Children's Aid Society President was notified. It was then her job to find a home suitable for the little ones. Folks lived far away from each other, and the mode of transportation was horse and buggy, so the only way to find a suitable home was to advertise in the local newspaper, hence articles appeared daily – "Blue-eyed blonde hair little two year old tot needs home."
From the very early days it was hoped that the Children's Aid Society would own a home of its own and in 1916 a county wide canvas was made of the friends of the Society and by 1920 enough money was raised to purchase a two and one half story brick building built in 1887 and constructed as a single family residence. The children were removed from the many boarding homes and placed in the "New Home." In 1921 our private, non-profit agency became incorporated. In 1925, in some ways due to the Influenza Epidemic, we had out grown the home and an addition was built to permit a capacity of twenty children.
In 1947, the Society hired their first full-time paid professional social worker. There was a growing concern that some of the children needed to live in a family atmosphere rather than an institution, and our Foster Family and Adoption Programs were developed.
In the 1970's as a result of the de-institutionalization wave and the changing needs of children and families, the Children's Aid developed an Emergency Shelter and Community Based Residential Programs for children 12 years to 18 years. This programming utilized the Children's Home in a more planned therapeutic manner rather than the old "orphanage" model. In the 1980's residential and non-residential programs were developed to again meet the changing needs of children and families to provide mental health treatment modalities. In the 1990's the treatment programs were enhanced and expanded. In 1997, our agency was restructured to establish two separate and distinct 501(c) 3 non-profit corporations: The Children's Aid Home Programs of Somerset County, Inc. as the Program Corporation and The Children's Aid Home and Society of Somerset County, Inc. The Children's Aid Home and Society reorganized to endeavor to build an endowment and raise monies to better serve the children and families. This corporation was renamed the Children's Aid Home Society Foundation.
For over 130 years, the Children's Aid Home has continued to serve children under the guidance of an active Board of Directors. Our programs offer specialized care for children and youth who have experienced physical and sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, and physical and emotional trauma.
In 2001, we moved into our new facility which was designed specifically with child care in mind. The new facility features an indoor basketball court, private rooms for all residents, private and semi-private bathrooms, and many features to provide therapeutic, recreational, and educational activities for the children in our care.
Today, the Children's Aid Home Programs of Somerset County, Inc. provides Temporary Shelter and Residential Care for children between the ages of 12 and 18. Our ability to respond to the challenges of youth with emotional and behavioral difficulties has led to a greater demand for Children's Aid to care for troubled, neglected and abused young people. These young people respond to a structured therapeutic milieu, which addresses their medical, social and emotional issues. The current Children's Home can house 24 adolescents.
The Foster Family Care Program provides foster family care services for children (infants to 21 years). The Children’s Aid Home Programs of Somerset County, Inc works with approximately seven counties. All foster children are considered special needs and have varying degrees of identified needs. Foster families are required to provide for the daily needs and provide transportation to family visits and appointments. Foster parents are an integral part of the team for the child.
Our Adoption Program provides domestic and special needs adoption services. The Children's Aid Home Programs of Somerset County, Inc. contracts with the State Wide Adoption and Permanency Network, (SWAN), which is a unique program that profiles special needs children who need adoptive families. The program then matches children with approved adoptive families who want to adopt a special needs child. All children in the foster care system are considered sSpecial needs for varying reasons and they all require a different level of care. Additional SWAN services provided include: Child Profiles, Child Preparation for Permanency, Child Specific Recruitment and Family Approval Documents
The Partial Hospitalization Programs for boys and girls between ages 12 to 18 is a non-residential day treatment program that includes specially tailored psychiatric and education programs. The programs have a capacity for 45 youth. Several needs which included, an increase of over-all program referrals and an increase in the number of students within the Somerset Area School who needed a therapeutic educational environment, led to the development of a second day treatment program for 15 students. This was developed at the Somerset School through an innovative public-private partnership.
The Alternative Education Program is a private contract with the Somerset Area School District to provide Alternative Education services to the school district's students. The Alternative Education Program will provide academic instruction and behavioral counseling to the students placed in this program. Our staff works collaboratively with the school to assist the students so they can successfully transition back to public school.
The Search and Reunion Program was created in an effort to maintain or reinstate children's connections with their biological family members. The Children's Aid Home Programs of Somerset County, Inc. has two authorized representatives with the ability to conduct searches for adoptees and birth parents.
Our Day Treatment Program is for students in grades Kindergarten through 5th Grade demonstrating behavioral challenges that create barriers to success in a traditional classroom. Children receive emotional, behavioral and educational support based on their individual needs. Referrals to the day treatment program are made by participating school districts. Our day treatment team works collaboratively with the referring district to support children with their integration back into the public school setting.