History of Ashtabula County Children Services Board

The citizens of Ashtabula County have a long history of caring for and protecting children. In 1886, the Masonic Fraternity gave the proceeds of their “Grand Charity Ball” ($346.00) to the young women of the Dorcas Society. These women used the money to open the first Children’s Home. The home was located on North Main Street, Ashtabula, which is near the present YMCA. Mrs. Jesse Benham was the first matron. On May 9, 1886 the first child was admitted to the home. This home remained the County’s children’s home until 1928 when a new home was built by the Ashtabula County Commissioners to replace it. This home was located at 2036 East Prospect, Ashtabula. At the time of it’s opening, there were 78 children plus staff to move into the home. In 1945, state law created the Children Services Boards which were responsible not only for the operation of the children’s home, but also for the provision of services to children and protection of children in their own homes and in foster homes. In the late 1960’s, Child Welfare Professionals began to understand the importance of children being raised in families rather than facilities; therefore, the East Prospect facility changed from being a “children’s home” to a “Receiving Home” for short-term care as most children who had to be separated from their families were placed in foster homes.

The East Prospect children’s home went on to house the Ashtabula County Children’s Receiving Home, the Ashtabula County Children Services Board offices, the Ashtabula County Welfare Department, the Veterans Administration and the Society for Handicapped Children and Adults until 1985.

On February 16, 1985, the agency moved to its current location at 3914 “C” Court in Ashtabula Township at the Donahoe Center. The facility originally consisted of agency offices and a Receiving Home for up to 24 children. In 2002, the Receiving Home was closed so that a Treatment Center could be opened in its place. The Ian B. Wheeler Treatment Center was opened in April 2003 to assist children with behavioral and mental health needs. This Center closed as more emphasis was put on keeping children with their own families whenever possible and the use of kinship and foster care became the focus for children who had to be removed from their homes.

Presently, Ashtabula County Children Services operates with a budget comprised of federal, state, and local dollars. We rely heavily on community support as 56% of our budget comes from local levy funds. This money is used for operating expenses and to assist families in a variety of ways; including, caring for the county’s abused and neglected children and ensuring children’s basic needs are being met.

As we continue Ashtabula County’s legacy of helping children, Ashtabula County Children Services Board is proud to partner with other community organizations, agencies and individuals to meet our Mission to “assure that all children at risk of abuse and neglect are protected and nurtured within a family and with the support of our community.”