Carson Valley Children’s Aid
Carson Valley School and Children’s Aid Society merged in 2008 establishing the combined entity, Carson Valley Children’s Aid (CVCA), as a foremost provider of services for children, youth and families. Currently, CVCA provides a full range of services, including behavioral health, out of home care, prevention, intervention and education in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties. CVCA's services are designed to support children, youth and families along a continuum of interventions that acknowledge both the strengths and needs of individuals, engages them in a shared plan for their lives and partners with them to identify and explore meaningful choices as they consider a future that is focused not simply on surviving, but one that is about thriving.
Carson Valley School
In 1907, Robert N. Carson, a childless Philadelphia trolley magnate, provided five million dollars to establish a decentralized rural children’s village for the benefit and education of poor, white, healthy girls. Carson fixed the ages at which girls could be admitted and graduate into the community and insisted that the college avoid the appearance of charity, that the girls be trained as individuals, that they not be dressed uniformly, that they be given a practical English education, and that those who were capable and so desired be trained in music and the arts. Carson also provided roughly one hundred acres of his famed Erdenheim Stock Farm near Chestnut Hill establish the basis of the Flourtown campus.
Elsa Ueland (1888–1980), President of Carson College from 1917-1960, established a program of education that brought fame to the institution. Ueland established a model of progressive education that included academic and vocational training enhanced by studies in art, music, dance and drama. Multi-disciplinary teams of professionals acknowledged creative play as fundamental to children’s well-being while focusing on the psychological understanding of children’s growth and development. The residential school’s curriculum of academic, social and vocational skills was far advanced of the public schools at this time.
In 1940, Carson’s admissions policy broadened from serving orphans to serving children who could benefit from a group living program. In 1947, brothers of residents seen as part of a “family” were admitted to the College and in 1965 Carson began accepting youth regardless of race, color or gender and began receiving funding from public sources.
Carson College represented a new wave – when charity developed into social service and children were respected as individuals. The flexibility, focus on expert service and appreciation of individuality fostered in 1917 continue at CVCA today. The campus that was designed to inspire imaginations continues as a vibrant residential setting that assists children and youth realize their potential and thrive. CVCA's goal is for every child to have a vision for his or her life that will produce healthy, responsible, economically independent, and socially conscious adults.
Residential programming is augmented by an on-grounds, licensed private academic school, recreational resources and therapeutic supports that are interwoven throughout the day. Through evidence based treatment such as Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT), crisis prone children are taught skills to avoid crisis or resolve crisis without hospitalization or dangerous behaviors. CVCA's licensed private academic school offers small classroom settings, special education services (as needed) and psycho-educational groups. Children have the opportunity to participate in art, physical education and horticulture classes throughout the academic day. Consistent with Carson College’s original design, horticultural programming includes hands-on learning experiences on the CVCA's working farm; children grow, harvest and cook vegetables as seasons allow.
Carson Valley School began providing treatment foster care services, a community-based alternative to the institutional care of children and youth in the mid-1980s. Within the program, specially trained, highly skilled foster parents implement individualized treatment plans which focus on teaching children and youth social, emotional, daily living and educational skills. Treatment foster homes are located throughout the city of Philadelphia and surrounding counties. The children and youth served attend their neighborhood schools, receive health care in their neighborhoods and participate in cultural, religious and recreational activities in the neighborhoods in which they reside. Carson Valley School continued to expand its community-based offerings throughout the 1990s by adding additional levels of out-of-home care, a variety of in-home services and behavioral health services to its continuum and also as by establishing additional neighborhood centers in the Mount Airy and Allegheny West sections of Philadelphia.
Children’s Aid Society of Montgomery County
Children's Aid Society was founded in 1885 as a foster placement and adoption agency, serving multiple counties in Pennsylvania, and providing specialized social services to neglected and abused children in and out of the home. Headquartered on DeKalb Street in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Children’s Aid Society grew to be a provider of foster care, adoption, and family focused services in Philadelphia and suburban counties.
Early on, Children’s Aid Society utilized input from community partners to identify and create prevention services to strengthen families and neighborhoods. In the early 1990’s, Children’s Aid Society adopted the family center model. Family centers were established in the 15th police district in Frankford, in the 35th police district in Logan/Olney, and in Norristown in Montgomery County. The family centers offered a combination of drop-in services and structured activities such as linkages to resources for emergency food, clothing and housing; access to computers, faxing and copying; parenting classes; after school programs; youth activities to promote positive behaviors; tutoring; and family fun events. The family centers were staffed to meet the cultural and language needs of their communities. All of the family centers relied on local community advisory board members to identify community needs and provide input on solutions; represent the community at various planning meetings with the city or school district; and serve as volunteers (or in paid positions when available) to operate the youth and family activities. Most importantly, the volunteers and advisory committee members connected the family centers to the community and its businesses, schools, faith-based institutions and residents. Over time, with changes in funding, the Philadelphia family centers evolved into family support centers, still providing community-based services to neighborhood residents.
Children’s Aid Society also merged with Helpline Center, Incorporated of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, in the 1990s. Helpline Center was established as a community counseling agency for children and their families closely affiliated with Children and Youth Services and the Department of Juvenile Probation of Montgomery County. This merger, expanded the community outreach of Children’s Aid Society by adding drug and alcohol outpatient services, crisis counseling and in-school prevention services.
The connection to communities was continued and strengthened following the merger of Carson Valley School and Children’s Aid Society in 2008 to become Carson Valley Children’s Aid (CVCA). Currently, more than 5,000 children, youth and families are served in the following locations: Allegheny West, Logan Olney, New Covenant, Norristown and the CVCA main campus in Flourtown.