In 1866, a group of civic minded women in Peoria, Illinois responded to the needs of the poor by forming the Christian Home Mission. In the beginning, they would divide the city into and visit households identifying families in need and provide relief in the form of groceries, coal, clothing, and medicine. These women also sought to eradicate the causes of poverty and established the Industrial School to teach young girls sewing and mending skills.
The Christian Home Mission secured a charter from the state and, in 1875, Home for the Friendless, now known as “The Children’s Home.” Their original capacity was for 6-8 women and children. 20 years later, 60 women and children were given shelter at the Home for the Friendless with the need for the services continuing to grow. In 1912, 16-20 more girls were given housing by converting the house next door.
As time went on, residential services were still offered and the Children’s Home began accepting emergency admissions from the police and other community agencies. More severely disturbed children were accepted for treatment and capacity was reduced to 20-30 children because the treatment required more space. In 1964, Sommer House, an aftercare group home for high school-aged girls, opened and its success prompted the opening of a boys’ group home in 1967. In 1976, The Pre-School Family Center merged with the Children’s Home creating what is now known as Kiefer School. This added a therapeutic day nursery, and services for socially, emotionally, and behaviorally disordered children from 6-12 years of age. During the 1980’s, community-based programs began to help prevent the unnecessary removal of children from their homes and two Supervised Independent Living facilities opened serving older teens transitioning to independent adult living. In the 90’s, the Children’s Home gained an increased focus on preventing criminal activity to avert youth from entering the juvenile Department of Corrections. In 1995, a new logo and mission statement were unveiled designed to increase visibility and create greater awareness in the community imparting a sense of hope, optimism and a vision for the future. The new mission statement communicated that Children’s Home is part of something greater and helped tie us to the larger community. Children’s Home merged with Youth Farm allowing the children from the Knoxville Campus to move to the Youth Farm Campus to enjoy a tranquil setting they did not experience in the city.
Currently, operating from six locations in the Peoria area, our professional staff of approximately 450 is committed to community-based, family-focused programs that provide counseling, education and support to nearly 1,200 children each month. Programs for children and youth include: residential care, group homes, foster care and adoption, supervised independent living, private school, crisis intervention, mental health assessment, homeless services, in-home counseling and family preservation.