Our History

History of Family Services of NW PA

102773126Family Services has a long rich history of serving families and children in our community.

In January 1882, three judges, three clergymen and two leaders from the community met in the Erie Music Hall at 1001 State Street and agreed to take the necessary steps to establish a charitable, non-sectarian organization. The concept of this organization was “to systemize and bring into harmonious cooperation the charity and almsgiving of the City of Erie.” This organization would serve to detect unworthy applicants for assistance and to help the poor become self-sufficient. On February 4, 1882, the Charity Organization Society was incorporated. This organization was later referred to as Bureau of Charities Society of Erie. This agency was established before most State-run welfare agencies existed.

In 1936, with a grant from the Junior League, the agency was reorganized as the Child-Parent Bureau to provide services to neglected children. In 1938, the new organization expanded. Renamed the Welfare Bureau of Erie, it maintained three departments, the Child-Parent Department, the Traveler’s Aid Department and the Legal Aid Department. The agency was first accredited in 1942 as a member agency of Family Service America (now Families International). At that time it was also a member of the Child Welfare League of America. It was incorporated in 1941 as Family and Child Service of Erie. Legal Aid and Traveler’s Aid Services were discontinued in the 1970’s. During the years following, the Agency’s primary focus was on adoption.

In March 1983, three agencies merged to form Family Services, Family Service Association (the former Family Counseling Services organization begun in 1975), Big Brother/Big Sister of Erie County (begun in 1971 through the efforts of the Jaycees), and Family and Child Services of Erie County. The agency became known as Family Services to reflect a new multi-service agency. The respective agency Boards of Directors agreed to merge those services then being provided by the agencies to provide a nucleus for a single family service agency with major funding support by the United Way of Erie County.

In June 1984, and additional merger agreement was reached with Marriage Counseling Services of Erie for them to become a division of the Agency.

In 1987, a satellite office was established in Crawford County. The original services were Consumer Credit Counseling and in-home family therapy. The agency name was changed to Family Services of Northwestern Pennsylvania to reflect our geographical expansion. In 1993, Family Preservation Services was added. In 1995, Family Services of Crawford County was incorporated and a separate Board of Directors came into existence. Community Abuse Response Team (CART) was added to the menu of services in 1996. In 1997, our Crawford County programs became a separate agency.

In 2001, Family Services of NW PA began serving Crawford County again with Family Based Mental Health, CART, Family Preservation, Adoption, BHRS and Brief Services. Also in 2001, a satellite office was established in Venango County. Services started with Adoption and Kinship then expanded with CART, Family Preservation, and Brief Services.

In May 2009, Family Services began offering services in Mercer County. Family Group Decision Making was the initial service. Since 2009 services have expanded to include: Family Preservation, Brief Services, and Multi-systemic Therapy.

The current Family Services of NW PA (Family Services) has its main office at 5100 Peach Street, Erie, Pennsylvania. Additional branch offices are located in Meadville, Franklin and Sharon, PA.

A corporate Board of Directors is responsible for establishing and approving agency policies and programs. Additional support is obtained from the advisory boards created for the programs of Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Crawford County Programs.

The professional and administrative management of the Agency is the responsibility of the President and Chief Executive Officer. The Agency employs staff trained in social work and related fields of counseling with an emphasis being placed on training and experience in working with families.

The agency today fulfills the mandate to continue the original services, and has become a full-service, accredited Family Service agency that provides northwestern Pennsylvania with the quality and quantity of services necessary to fulfill its mission and promise to strengthen family life. The agency has also provided northwestern Pennsylvania with an agency to support and provide many of the services best provided by a non-governmental service agency.


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