Methodist Children’s Home Society, originally named Methodist Child Care, was founded in 1917, a year in which Detroit factories were busy turning out war material for the conflict in Europe. When a disastrous epidemic of influenza hit the city, children whose parents died were often left without friends or relatives to care for them. Such was the plight of numerous children discovered by members of the Order of Deaconesses of the Methodist Church when making their rounds in the residential sections of Detroit industrial areas.
Anna Kresge, wife of Sebastian Kresge, owner of S.S. Kresge stores were concerned with the needs of the larger community of children. Together with Sophie Sprague, Superintendent of the Deaconess Home, and members of the Women’s Home Missionary Society, Mrs. Kresge and Mrs. Sprague took the first steps towards creating a haven for children without families or for those receiving inadequate care in their own homes.
They were responsible for the purchase of a small house in the Highland Park neighborhood of Detroit, and made arrangements to care for 10 children. In 1922, a larger home was built on a farm in what is now downtown Farmington. Frances Knight was appointed Director, and the agency became a charter member of the Child Welfare League of America. In 1926, the agency’s name was officially changed to Methodist Children’s Home Society, and the endowment was created.
Ms. Knight envisioned a community designed to meet the social, emotional, academic, physical and spiritual needs of children. The basic concept of the director’s plan called for small cottages, each designed to house seven boys and girls ages 4-12, living with house-mothers and fathers in a family setting. In 1927, the Kresge Foundation authorized a substantial grant or the purchase of 28 acres of land and the building of Methodist Children’s Home Society’s “Children’s Village” in Redford. The Kresge grant was augmented by gifts from such prominent Detroiters as the Webber, Hudson, and Edsel Ford families.
The Children’s Village received its first residents in June of 1929. The campus was designed by Detroit architect J. Ivan Dise in authentic 16th Century English Tudor style. It consisted of six cottage units, a residence for the Director, an administrative building containing staff offices, as well as medical and dental clinics. In 1933, Miss Knight was honored by being the only woman invited to attend President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s White House Conference on Children.
In 1938, Kresge Hall, a fully equipped elementary school, was added to the campus, and Camp Knight was opened on Douglas Lake in Northern Michigan. In 1947, MCHS purchased 50 more acres of adjacent land and began construction on the Children’s Chapel. With the dedication of the Chapel in 1951, the Children’s Village was complete and engaged in fulfilling the founders’ purpose of providing the comprehensive needs of the children living there. The serene 80-acre campus consisted of 22 buildings, including residential cottages and office buildings intertwined with nature trails and the Rouge River. In 1974, MCHS started a Day Treatment program in collaboration with Redford Union School District, and in 1989, the Foster Care program began placing children as emergency intakes.
In the 1990s, MCHS transitioned to an all-boys campus, and the agency constructed seven new residences for children. Each cottage now houses ten children, and every child in our residential program is able to enjoy the safety of his own bedroom.
Our Independent Living Plus program launched in 2014, allowing MCHS to support young men between 16 and 19 who are aging out of the foster care system. Through the ILP program, we provide a stable home, access to resources, life skills training, educational opportunities and workforce development training. Our young men make the commitment to become productive adults once they leave the foster care system and live independently in the community.
In 2019, MCHS cut the ribbon and opened its doors to our first satellite office located at the Durfee Innovation Society. The satellite office extends the MCHS footprint and provides child abuse prevention services and parenting resources to at risk families in Detroit.
Methodist Children’s Home Society was founded to care for displaced children in search of loving homes. Today, we continue to provide a safe haven to hundreds of children who come to us each year searching for hope, love and acceptance. Through our programs, we fulfill our vital and challenging mission of providing individualized treatment, care, advocacy, and permanency to children & families impacted by childhood trauma. Each day, we strive to build a community where every child and family has a brighter and safer future.