Established in 1893, Children's Home Society is South Dakota’s oldest human services, nonprofit organization.
Our founders, William and Elizabeth Sherrard, were very dedicated to children in need. Before establishing Children's Home Society in Sioux Falls, they helped care for abused and neglected children in their own home in Clark County and found permanent families for them.
During this time, Children's Home Society orphanages were being established across the United States. When it was determined that a Children's Home should be established for the state of South Dakota, William and Elizabeth Sherrard were asked to move to Sioux Falls and formalize their mission.
Through incredible support from the community, a home was rented, furniture and other needs were donated, and William and Elizabeth moved to Sioux Falls to begin their work. On February 16, 1893, the first five children arrived. William was 55 and Elizabeth was 63.
Not only did William and Elizabeth work to care for and place out children, spread awareness of their work, and raise funds to support its needs, they were also integral in writing the very first child protection laws for the State of South Dakota, which were passed by the state legislature in 1897.
From humble beginnings, Children's Home Society of South Dakota continued to serve as the state's primary orphanage and adoption agency for more than 70 years. Thousands of children throughout the state were rescued, cared for, and provided permanent families.
In the late 1960s, the need for orphanages diminished across the country as foster care was introduced and became the preferred method of care for abused and abandoned children. The historic orphanage, which was located on 10th & Cliff in Sioux Falls, closed in 1968.
To address another growing need, we then focused our efforts on developing residential treatment and special education programs to serve children with emotional and behavioral needs - most often due to histories of abuse.
As the state's needs in this area continued to increase, it was determined that a facility in Western South Dakota was needed in order to better serve children who were from that area. In 1972, our board voted to purchase a home and 80 acres of land in the Black Hills near Rapid City.
In the mid 1970s the concept of developing emergency crisis centers was also being explored across the country.
The Siouxland Child Protection Council realized a dire need to provide such a service in Sioux Falls, and with the help of grant funding and philanthropic individuals in the Sioux Falls community, Children's Inn opened in 1977 as one of the first 10 crisis shelters in the United States.
With the very first knock at its door, Children's Inn's mission was to provide emergency shelter for women and children who were victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and neglect. Children's Inn also provided crisis intervention, parenting education, a 24-hour crisis hotline, and community education for abuse prevention.
In 1998, Children's Inn and Children's Home Society merged, with Children's Inn continuing to operate as a program of Children's Home Society. The mission to serve victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse continues today.
Through the years, we have continued to expand our continuum of services to meet the evolving needs of South Dakota children and families.
Today, we serve families, individuals, and children of all ages. Many are victims of domestic violence, abuse and/or neglect, or traumatic life events. We also partner with caring parents to help children with emotional or behavioral needs.
Through all of our programs, we are ready to come alongside parents or guardians to strengthen their families and to help children get the care and services they need.
Who could have imagined...
Who could have imagined, in 1893, the impact that Children's Home Society would have on the thousands of children and families who have been served throughout its robust history? Perhaps those who were so integral in the development and formation of our agency had this vision - as they certainly had the heart and hope.
We hope you enjoy this short video about our early days, produced to commemorate our 125th Birthday in 2018.
We empower children, adults, families, and communities to be resilient, safe, healthy, and strong.
More detailed information about the history of Children’s Home Society may be found in the book A Century of Love, written by Robert Karolevitz. Copies are available on loan in every public library in South Dakota.