History of The House
The House of the Good Shepherd dates back to 1872 and represents a long history of responsiveness to the ever-changing needs of children in Central New York. During the post-Civil War period, there were growing numbers of orphans and an increased disruption in family life in Central New York.
In response to this need, a small group of concerned men and women gathered together on February 8, 1872. It was then that The House came into existence. They established "an asylum for children in Central New York that would provide a permanent home for the infirm and a temporary shelter for the friendless, neglected and destitute without making their surrender to the institution a prerequisite to their admission."
The House of the Good Shepherd opened its doors to two children and a matron on May 11, 1873, at a rented house in Utica, New York.
Early 1900s – Substantial Building Constructed on Genesee Street
At the turn of the century, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas R. Proctor donated property at 1700 Genesee Street near the Parkway in Utica. An impressive three-story structure was built and dedicated on September 29, 1904. The House of the Good Shepherd occupied that site until 1958. Care was largely custodial and children frequently remained in care for many years, leaving The House as young adults.
1958 – The Move to Our Champlin Avenue Campus
In 1958, The House of the Good Shepherd elected to end its traditional program of providing only shelter, protection and education of orphans or dependent children. Contributing to this decision were the introduction of foster home placements, a decline in the orphan population and the growth of public funding for child welfare services through the Social Security Act. However, the primary factor in this move toward providing social services was the identification of a need: a new philosophy to meet the needs of growing numbers of children who were struggling with serious emotional and social problems. In 1958, the institutional complex on Genesee Street was sold and the agency purchased an eight-acre tract of land on Champlin Avenue. There it built four cottages and a multi-service building with treatment rooms, a gym and administrative space.
The House was one of only a handful of agencies in the nation to depart from the established practice of isolating children within institutions. It took the daring step of utilizing the community, its schools and its recreational facilities to help build a new sense of social responsibility and to guide youngsters back into the community.
1960s-1970s - Our Focus Expands to Community-Based Programs
In 1966, a group home was established in the community. A specialized foster home program was added in 1972. The On-Campus School (currently the Tilton School), first established in 1961 in a single classroom, was expanded to provide special educational services for all of the children in order to better prepare them for community living. A Day Services Program, established in 1975, provided another alternative to institutional living.
By the late 1970's, The House embarked on the development of service programs. We replaced management with treatment and began focusing on the entire family, not just the child. This strategy resulted in dramatic changes.
The Evolving Child Welfare System of the 1980s
Over the next decade, the length of the average residential placement decreased from nearly four years to just eighteen months. The number of children and families who received services each year more than doubled to nearly 300. The focus of treatment extended to the campus school program. This resulted in the school’s certification as a special education school for children who are emotionally disturbed or learning disabled. It increased the school’s specialization and enriched the student to teacher ratio.
The House Today
The House has continued its growth into the nineties and the twenty-first century. Newly established programs include:
- an ever-growing therapeutic foster care program, including an office in Watertown, NY established in 1990,
- a Non-Secure Detention program serving children and teens from Oneida County,
- a Residential Treatment Facility (our Schafer Residence) certified by the New York State Office of Mental Health that opened in early 1995, and
- various prevention and diversion programs that work to keep the children in their homes, reducing the need for out-of-home placements.
In tune with the changing child welfare system, there are new initiatives in the planning and development stages that will begin within the next year or two. These changes are aimed at providing the optimal level of care for the children we care for today.
The House of the Good Shepherd continues its historical commitment of addressing the needs of children, their families and the community. We strive to provide the best possible treatment and education programs that change children’s lives.