…almost 6,000 new families formed through adoption, thousands of young adults with disabilities able to hold jobs and live independently in a way they never dreamed possible. Providence Place has a history in which it can take great pride.
Providence Place, which opened its doors in 1895 and quickly outgrew three other locations, built its 25-acre campus in northwest San Antonio in 1968. There, young expectant mothers could be spirited away to have their babies, place them for adoption and return to their normal lives – high school, college, work – as if nothing had happened.
For would-be parents who couldn’t conceive, it was a godsend – they could have a family at last. Up through the mid-1970s, this model worked. Every year, hundreds of girls from all over Texas came to Methodist Mission Home, as it was then known, and adoptive parents went home proudly with a new family member.
Inevitably, however, life was changing significantly. Abortions and easy access to birth control meant that young women had more control over their lives – and their pregnancies. The trend toward open adoption made ongoing relationships between birth mothers and adoptive parents a reality. These and other social changes meant far less stigma about pregnancies outside marriage. The drastic drop in birth mothers – to less than a third of the number just a few years earlier – left the dormitories languishing unoccupied, and forced reconsideration of the organization’s purpose.
Providence Place had already identified a need to help deaf young adults transition to independent living after work, life and social skills training. The buildings and space were a perfect fit for the new program, which began in 1974 and later expanded to include other young people with cognitive and physical disabilities. The work training program and pulled in partners to help grow the culinary training effort, among others.
Thousands of students have now graduated from Providence Place’s Center for Higher Independence (CHI) and the large majority hold paying jobs, maintain a home of their own and, in some cases, have married. The stories they tell about their struggle to achieve a basic level of independence are intensely moving.
A community partnership includes the San Antonio Food Banks’s culinary program that trains students, as well as campus residents at Providence Place, for work in the food industry. Providence Place’s horticulture training prepares young adults with an interest in working in a garden center or botanical program. Others include:
Providence Place has put into place a strategy for an “incubator of ideas” to develop and pilot potential new mutually beneficial services with other collaborative agencies and develop viable revenue streams for all involved.
Program revenues and strong philanthropic results in recent years have restored Providence Place to financial health, and today, the organization is looking beyond mere survival to a broadening impact in the nonprofit world.