Our History

Transformation From Orphanage To Behavioral Health Agency

This year, St. Joseph Orphanage (SJO) is celebrating 190 years of service to our community. Founded by the Sisters of Charity in October 1829, SJO is one of the oldest child and family service agencies in the nation. We provide comprehensive behavioral health and educational treatment services to more than 4,300 children and families each year, many of whom have experienced neglect, abuse, or other forms of trauma.

Initially, SJO was located in a house on Sycamore Street in downtown Cincinnati and provided care for girls orphaned by illness, natural disasters, and poverty. As the years passed, SJO continued to grow, moving in 1836 to a new location at Third and Plum Streets near St. Peter in Chains Cathedral. In 1854, SJO relocated to an estate at Blue Rock and Cherry streets in Cincinnati’s Northside community (then called Cumminsville). By 1902, a total of 500 boys and girls resided there.

SJO moved to its current Villa campus in Green Township in 1962 following the construction of a spacious new facility at the 40-acre site. In 1976, SJO also began providing services at its 45-acre Altercrest campus near Coney Island.

Change continued as foster care began to take the place of orphanages across the United States. In response, SJO shifted its focus to address the urgent need for children’s behavioral health services. By 1990, SJO had transitioned from an orphanage to a Mental Health Center certified by the Ohio Department of Mental Health.

SJO began to add other programs and services as well to better support children and families. The first foster child was admitted to SJO’s new foster care program in 1992, and in 1995, SJO opened the region’s first facility-based, secure Crisis Stabilization Unit for youth with severe emotional and behavioral concerns who needed care in a residential setting. To serve children whose educational needs exceeded what was available in their neighborhood schools, SJO opened charter schools in 1995 and 2002. Today, children with behavioral health challenges attend our Villa-based elementary/middle school and Altercrest-based high school. In May 2015, SJO began an innovative approach to providing access to care for children and families through walk-in hours for diagnostic assessments and medication management.

We first earned national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) in 2005 and have continued to expand our continuum of care. Our extensive array of Outpatient Services includes diagnostic assessment, child and family therapy, case management, medication management, intensive home based treatment, and substance use services, and our therapists are embedded in numerous area schools. We also provide Transitional Youth Services for teens and young adults who need support and resources to successfully move into independent living.

As our continuum of care has expanded, so has our geographic reach. We now serve children and families in 10 counties across Southwest Ohio and operate offices in Cincinnati (Hamilton County), Dayton (Montgomery County), and Fairfield (Butler County). However, one thing has not changed throughout the past 190 years—our commitment to those we serve. We remain dedicated to Building Hope and Strengthening Lives as we support children and families on their journey to hope and healing.

Our History

1829
October 1

The Beginning

The Beginning

On a cold morning in October 1829, four Sisters of Charity stepped down from a horse-drawn wagon in the squalor that was the Queen City of the West, a town ravaged by the cholera epidemic, natural disasters, and poverty. Traveling far from their home in Emmitsburg, Maryland. These dedicated women soon established the first orphanage for girls in a donated house on Sycamore Street in downtown Cincinnati.

1834
September 19

St.Peter’s Asylum

St.Peter’s Asylum

1834
John Purcell, the new bishop, created the St.Peter’s Benevolent Society to provide financial support for the 32 orphans cared for by the Sisters of Charity. The home was named St. Peter’s Asylum

1836
January 14

New Residence Opens

New Residence Opens

1836
Bishop Purcell purchased a residence at Third and Plum Streets for $16,000. Of the 87 residents, 20 were not Catholic, and all were girls Nondenominational care was a hallmark of this institution from the beginning. St. Aloysius Orphanage on Fourth Street provided care for boys.

1852
September 19

St.Joseph Orphanage Opens

St.Joseph Orphanage Opens

When Archbishop Purcell established the new orphanage known as St. Joseph Orphanage. Sister Anthony O’Connell was named Superior. St. Joseph was established in response to the children orphaned by cholera attacks and social problems.



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