Dear Friends of Children’s Place,
In 1990, when I was hired as Executive Director of Children’s Place Association, this fledgling not-for-profit didn’t yet have a staff or an office or even a website. But we did have a vision. Our founders, a group of compassionate volunteers, responded to an urgent issue – babies being orphaned or abandoned because of HIV/AIDS – and that’s why Children’s Place was born.
That vision, to build a better tomorrow for Chicago’s most vulnerable children, laid the groundwork for everything that has followed. From the 1991 opening of our original program – a 10-bed residence for sick babies – to our 2021 plans to address the trauma faced by kids exposed to gun violence, Children’s Place Association continues to champion the needs of children whose lives and futures are in peril.
I am so proud of all we’ve accomplished over the past 30 years – helping thousands of children here in Chicago and overseas (through our Children’s Place International projects). And I am immensely grateful to those who have made this work possible… Board members and other committed volunteers, amazing employees and, of course, our generous supporters and partners.
As we embark on our 30th anniversary celebration, I’d like to share with you some milestones of the past three decades… and take this opportunity to say thank you to all those who have been a part of our history and invite new allies to join us.
OUR BEGINNINGS – THE 1990s
Our first center was opened in the fall of 1991. The 10-bed group home, located in Chicago’s Humboldt Park community, offered 24-hour nursing care for kids affected by HIV/AIDS. It was one of the first in the nation.
In 1994, we launched our Foster Care and Adoption program so children who could not return to their birth families would have loving foster parents to care for them.
In 1998, we opened the Arthur E. Jones Early Childhood Care & Learning Center, providing specialized early education for infants and preschoolers with health challenges. Today our center and home-based programs educate up to 170 infants and young children annually. Supportive Family Housing for families facing homelessness followed in 1999.
EXPANSION & GROWTH
As the AIDS crisis began to diminish due to medical advances, we widened our scope to help vulnerable children facing poverty and other life-changing health conditions.
In 2007, we launched Children’s Place International to bring needed help to vulnerable children in developing countries. Through our partner organizations, more than 4,000 children, youth and family members in Africa and the Caribbean benefit from health, education and economic development programs each year.
In 2015, Children’s Place Association expanded Supportive Family Housing with the opening of our third center, a 13-unit apartment building with onsite services, located in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood.
During 2020, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Children’s Place secured special funding to help families cope with this health crisis. We provided support for 140 vulnerable Chicago families with 200+ children, ensuring they had access to food, medical care, housing and other essentials. And our Early Education programs continued throughout the lockdown with virtual learning.
THE FUTURE – CHILD THRIVE
Following our founding vision, the vital work of Children’s Place continues with a focus on today’s most vulnerable children – those challenged by health disparities, poverty, gun violence and racial injustice. In 2021, Children’s Place will launch Child Thrive, a major new initiative based in West Humboldt Park, a high-need Chicago community struggling with crime and the impact of structural racism.
Child Thrive will expand resources in this underserved neighborhood, including access to primary care, trauma-informed mental health services, youth mentoring and economic development, in collaboration with local partners. The goal is to help this community transform from one of the harshest places to be a child… to a great place to grow up, a neighborhood where every child can THRIVE.
JOIN US IN CELEBRATING OUR COMMITMENT TO KIDS
In just 20 days, we will celebrate our 30th anniversary at our Annual Gala, Once Upon A Time…With Love from Chicago. I invite you to join us at this virtual event as we share impactful stories of Children’s Place’s journey over the years and honor our 2021 Chicago Champion for Children Awardees and keynote speakers – acclaimed journalist, author and filmmaker Alex Kotlowitz and relentless child advocate Maria Woltjen. (Who also happen to be husband and wife.)
The money raised at the Gala will allow us to continue our mission of hope and transformation, supporting Chicago’s most vulnerable children. Every day our teachers, social workers, case managers and nurses reach out to make a difference in the lives of children in need. Please help sustain our current services and launch the new Child Thrive initiative. I look forward to seeing you on Thursday, April 29th.
President & CEO
Children’s Place Association