History of St. Mary’s Services:Founded in 1887 by the Episcopal Sisters of St. Mary, the guiding principal of St. Mary’s Services is that every child deserves a good home. Working toward this end for more than 120 years, St. Mary’s has provided various services for newborn infants, foster children, birth parents and adoptive families of all races and religions.
The agency began with the formation of guilds, mothers’ meetings and sewing classes to support low-income women and children in Chicago’s south side. By 1894, the Sisters moved to the west side and began to shelter orphans and children of ill and unemployed working women. A dilapidated duplex frame house next to the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul was purchased for $16,000. It was then repaired for $5,000 and made ready for occupancy in the autumn of 1895 when children returned from a summer spent in two beach cottages in Kenosha. This was the beginning of St. Mary's Home serving the citizens of Chicago.
By the mid-1940's institutional care gave way to foster home care and offices were opened on Kenmore Avenue in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Children of all ages, from newborn to teenagers, were cared for. The children had tragic histories of parental illness, addiction, alcoholism, abuse or desertion. After every attempt to reunite parent and child failed, adoption or permanent foster care was arranged. Gradually, foster care was phased out and what was to become St. Mary's Services evolved, focusing primarily on services for birth parents in need and families looking to adopt.
Now located in Arlington Heights, St. Mary’s is an Illinois-licensed, non-profit child welfare agency and a member of Episcopal Charities and Community Services (Diocese of Chicago). The agency focuses resources and energies in three primary areas:
- Maternity counseling and casework for women experiencing
unplanned pregnancies and considering adoption
- Counseling and facilitation for couples pursuing adoption
- Education and community awareness of adoption as a positive,