The Catholic Children's Home in Alton is sponsored and primarily supported by the Catholic Diocese in Springfield, Illinois, and serves to promote and care for the needs, education and welfare of dependent, neglected or otherwise needy children and youths who need structured care away from their own homes. This service is provided by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Springfield at the Catholic Children's Home without regard to poverty, riches, race, religion or national origin of the youths.
In September, 1879, a group of Precious Blood Sisters from Ruma, Illinois, opened an orphanage, Pio Nono Orphan Asylum in Piopolis, Illinois. This was incorporated in Illinois on March 28, 1883.
The Sisters worked diligently with the children at Piopolis until 1884 when Bishop Peter J. Baltus of the Alton Diocese requested the Sisters to relocate the orphanage to the City of Alton and occupy the James H. Lea residence as the new orphanage. It was Bishop Baltus intention that the relocation of the orphanage would serve more children in the Diocese.
As the number of children increased under the care of the Sisters, so did the size of the residence as the result of several additions over the years. However, the residence for the orphans soon became inadequate for the number of children being served, and in 1896, the first unit of a new Home was built on the northeast side of the old Lea home by Bishop James Ryan. Ten years later, Bishop Ryan erected a second unit of the residence on the southwest side. In 1908, a third unit was completed after the old Lea residence was torn down.
World War I brought on new demands, and the old orphanage found itself crowded with 250 children. It had survived many hardships, not the least of which was the terrible influenza epidemic of 1918. At one time, 108 children were bedfast with the dreaded disease, and isolation was impossible due to the crowded conditions. While the disease claimed many lives elsewhere, only two cases proved fatal at the Children's Home.
Bishop Ryan, realizing the need for more accommodations for the growing number of children, implemented the plans of establishing a larger home for the children of the Diocese. A new tract of land, containing about thirteen acres, on State Street in the 1400 block, was purchased by the Bishop as a site for the new Children's Home. The people of the Diocese responded generously to Bishop Ryan's appeal for this new children's home, and the new building was ready for occupancy in the fall of 1923.
The old residence across the street from St. Peter & Paul Cathedral became known as the Loretto Home, and it housed working girls and later became a retirement home for women. The Sisters of the Most Precious Blood served at the retirement home until 1972, when its doors were finally closed after years of service to the young and old.
With changing times, the programs and methods at the Catholic Children's Home have changed. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, the population shifted from "orphans" to more dependent and neglected children. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the living arrangements changed from an "institutional" atmosphere to that of smaller apartment group living.
Today, the Catholic Children's Home continues its mission by providing a Special Education Day School, for children with learning disabilities, developmental and behavioral disorders and through its comprehensive residential services for children in crisis. Its dynamic programming has been continually updated to best meet the changing, needs of the communities and families it serves.
The Special Education Department, which began in August 1972, provides year-round educational and therapeutic services to students age 5 through 21, who, due to a variety of social, emotional and/or educational difficulties, have been unsuccessful in public school programs. Students who require a high degree of positive structure and who need intensive, individualized educational and therapeutic services, experience social and academic successes through the Special Education Department Program.
The Catholic Children’s Home began an affiliation with Maryville Academy, Des Plains, Illinois in 1983, which introduced the Family Teaching Model to CCH. The Family Teaching Model was derived directly from the model as taught by Boys Town and was introduced and implemented in our programs from 1983-1986. In 1986 our teaching model evolved and developed into the Catholic Children’s Home Teaching Model for Behavioral Development to meet the changing needs of the youth we care for. To keep abreast of changes and progress in treatments techniques the Catholic Children’s Home has affiliations with Catholic Charities of America, Catholic Conference of Illinois, National Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children, Council for Exceptional Children, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapist, Foster Family Treatment Association, Illinois Council on Training and the Growth Association of Southwestern Illinois. While many of the groups provide collaborate informational services, the Catholic Children’s Home provides actual services directly to youth in need of services.
Residential Services consist of long term, diagnostic and emergency shelter care programs for boys ages 11 through 18 years. The programs are involved with all aspects of youth care including social, academic, and independent living skills taught by trained staff in a loving, caring "family" environment. When necessary, the youth also receive medical, eye and dental care; counseling, psychological evaluations, and specialized care to assist them in learning alternate social behaviors to replace problematic behaviors. The goals for the youth is to enable him to succeed in a less structured environment.
In March 1990, a Volunteer Program was started at the Catholic Children's Home. Interested persons wanting to offer their services to the youth in our care or for the facility are assigned to departments at the Catholic Children's Home to offer their services, which vary from planning recreational activities, art and craft activities, life skills training, beautification projects, public relations or any other possible interest of a volunteer. Through the Volunteers' dedication and desire, the Volunteer Program has proven to be an asset in providing other services to our youth and facility, which not only includes volunteers but also educational interns and the training process of new Advisory Board members.
The Catholic Children's Home in the future will remain dedicated to its mission to aid, protect and care for the needs, education and welfare of dependant, neglected, abused or otherwise hurting children and families without regard to poverty, riches, race, religion or national origin. This is achieved by assessing the needs of children and designing programs in the residential and educational components to meet these needs.