The Family & Children’s Center has been a familiar name in La Crosse since 1983 when the Family Service Association and the La Crosse Home for Children merged to become one agency. The merger brought with it a combined history that began in the 1880’s through the vision of community leaders with names such as Hixon, Losey, Stoddard and Palmer. The legacy of the Family & Children’s Center is mirrored in the services and programs that it offers to children, families and individuals today.
The founding years, 1881-1940
The Family Service Association originated in 1881 as the Committee for the Wisconsin Humane Society of La Crosse. Two of its purposes were to befriend the indigent and homeless and to protect neglected and abused children and widows. Known as the Social Service Society in 1917, it offered relief work to the poor as well as nursing services for tuberculosis, the epidemic of the time. The agency also became a founding member of the Community Chest, today’s United Way.
The La Crosse Home for Children began in 1888 as the Society of the La Crosse Home for Friendless Women and Children. It was founded by the Young Ladies Mission Band to care for elderly, deserted or destitue women and dependent or neglected children.
Responding to community needs, 1941-1960
In 1941, the Social Service Society became known as the Family Welfare Society and its services expanded to include foster homes for children in need, feeding transients and local families and distributing food and clothing to families and individuals. When the name was changed to the La Crosse Family Welfare Association in 1960, new services such as marital and family counseling, relief for military personnel and Travelers’ Aid were added. In 1972, greater emphasis was placed on counseling for families, couples and individuals and the name changed to Family Service Association.
By 1972, the La Crosse Home for Children had shortened its name and focused on care for dependent and neglected children at its residence at 11th and Ferry Streets. In 1963, a new building was constructed at Weston and Losey Blvd. and the home refocused its services on children who required therapeutic care for emotional or behavioral problems, a service need not being met in our area at the time.
Continued service through growth, 1961-present
After several years of discussion and study, the La Crosse Home for Children and the Family Service Association merged in 1983 and became one agency, the Family & Children’s Center, at the Weston site. From then on, our services grew. In October 1994, Douglas Mental Health Services of Viroqua became part of the agency and a year later we purchased its building to create a Family & Children’s Center in Viroqua. We began counseling and alternative education services in Prairie Du Chien in 1997, but services were discontinued in 1999. In September 1998, we broke ground for a new building in Holmen for alternative education services we created exclusively for the Holmen Schools and in 1999 we expanded alternative education services to Winona, Minn, as well. In September 2000 we purchased the Grandview Building at 1707 Main Street where we had leased space since 1983. Services expanded to Black River Falls in 2004, after Family & Children’s Center was awarded the contract from Jackson County to provide the Community Support Program for chronically mentally ill adults.
Today, Family & Children’s Center operates facilities in six regional communities. Our services continue to grow to meet the needs of the ever changing communities we serve.