Back in 1883 when 9-year-old Hermann Leisering was the first child through the doors of the Reformed Orphans Home of Ft. Wayne, Ind., the world and the organization itself were vastly different.
Now officially known as Crossroad Child & Family Services Inc., the organization still strives to help children in need, only through different means and in the midst of different social realities, says Kyle Zanker, Crossroad’s chief development officer.
“We are a nearly 127-year-old agency, and services have changed over the years; and with that, names have changed,” she says. Still, she notes, the aim has always been to serve children.
When founded, the Reformed Church-affiliated organization served as home for hundreds of children left in dire circumstances or those whose parents had died.
In 1942, its name became Ft. Wayne Children’s Home to reflect the move away from the orphanage model. After World War II, old-style orphanages began to disappear with the emergence of state foster care programs. The organization later expanded its services to include Woodhaven, a home for unwed mothers and their children. The home also added emotionally troubled children to those it served.
In 1963, the name changed to the Ft. Wayne Children’s Home of the United Church of Christ to reflect the 1957 merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches that created the United Church of Christ.
In 1975, the agency kept its existing name but began doing business as Crossroad.
“We could have called ourselves a treatment center at that point,” Zanker says. “The recent change reflects more accurately the programs and services we have offered for many years.”
A number of factors precipitated the legal name change earlier this year, she says.
Crossroad sought to emphasize the depth and breadth of services the agency offers to emotionally troubled children and youths: residential and secure care, outpatient services, home-based care, and an alternative to psychiatric residential treatment facilities. Today, Crossroad serves more children in non-residential services than in residential services, working more and more in communities and homes.
A secondary goal was to broaden the pool of funds available to support the work Crossroad does. Crossroad has adopted the new name as part of its tax-exempt organization filing, allowing the agency to receive funds from companies and other grantors who are forbidden in their bylaws from contributing to churches.
The ultimate goal, though, is serving children better.
“The name change helps place us in the minds of people who could use our services as so much more than a residential facility,” Zanker says. “We want them to think, ‘I have a troubled child who needs help and Crossroad has several alternatives that may meet our needs.’”