Home of the Innocents Is Helping to Drive Local Change Through Multiple Programs
Writer / Renee Larr
Home of the Innocents in Louisville was founded in 1880 by Dr. James Taylor Helm, Episcopalian minister of Christ Church in Louisville, to enrich the lives of children and families.
In 1972 it was relocated to a facility on East Chestnut Street. Subsequently, the organization took over child-care programs that had been run by the county government, and pediatric services provided by the old Jewish Convalescent Home for Children.
The 20-acre campus in NuLu can accommodate the needs of the community’s most desperate children. The Home has offered assistance to more than 10,000 children and families. As a nonprofit, it offers residential and community-based behavioral health services, therapeutic foster care and adoption services, supportive services for homeless young adults, and long-term care for medically complex or terminally ill children.
“We do this with 13 different programs within our organization,” says Meredith Pack, director of communications. “That is split up between our residential and emergency shelter, pediatric convalescent center, and community services.”
The pediatric convalescent center serves as a skilled-nursing facility providing short-term, long-term and respite care for children from birth to age 21. These children face significant medical, developmental and physical disabilities. Many are on supportive technology such as feeding tubes or ventilators.
“When the children arrive here, their condition is typically too acute to be hospitalized,” Pack says. “We have a 76-bed facility staffed with doctors, nurses and all types of therapists. They get all the medical care they require, while still having normal childhood experiences like attending school and participating in activities such as community outings, swimming, creating art projects, and music therapy.”
The residential and emergency shelter provides residential care for children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned, for a period of a few days to a few years in some cases. The Home staff members step in when a child is removed from an unsafe living situation. The Home is available to receive children 24/7, 52 weeks per year. Kids stay in the emergency shelter until a more permanent and suitable situation is found.
“These children are here because of a situation they encountered, whether that be abuse, abandonment or neglect,” Pack says. “They’re here with us to get the treatment they need until they can be reunited with their family, if it’s safe, or enter a foster-care adoption program. We have room for up to 90 kids based on the need.”
Home of the Innocents also offers community-based services such as Pathways HOME, behavioral health services, Parents Acquiring Skills and Strength, Safe Exchange, aquatic therapy and Project Keepsafe. Pathways HOME provides safe and secure housing and services for homeless young adults from 18 to 24 years old.
“Many times, people come to us through the judicial system,” Pack says. “All these programs aim to educate people and break the cycle. We provide ways to help identify ways to overcome the barriers and challenges of growing up in today’s environment. We’re giving them the foundation and skills to be fully independent.”
The therapy pool is fully accessible for those with special considerations, equipped with an aquatic wheelchair, a stretcher lift, a zero-depth entry ramp and an exercise bench. The facility also offers a splash pad for small children, and aquatic exercise equipment including stationary bikes, treadmills and an elliptical machine. In addition to locker rooms featuring lifts and adjustable shower tables, there are also family changing rooms. The saltwater pool has a ultraviolet filter and is heated to 92 degrees for therapeutic benefit.
Pack says the aquatic center benefits the children at Home of the Innocents greatly. The floating sensation allows them to move their limbs in a way that they might not be able to on dry land. She says it’s utilized as a behavior incentive for children in the residential and emergency shelter.
Project Keepsafe allows parents to voluntarily place their children in a licensed foster home situation, so that they can seek treatment for addiction, mental health problems or physical illness. This enables the parent to focus on healing themselves while ensuring the safety and well-being of their children.
“This program provides an opportunity for the parent to remain as the custodian of their child while they seek the medical help they need,” Pack says. “The child is placed in a very safe, skilled environment with as minimal changes to their normal routine as possible. It’s a great way for parents to take care of themselves while knowing they will be reunited with their child.”
Kendra Simon, outreach coordinator, says it’s important to remember the children they serve could be your friends’ or neighbors’ kids.
“People often think we have mostly babies here at the home, but really we serve mostly teens and adolescents,” Simon says. “It’s important for people to keep this in mind when they want to help our organization. Frequently, people want to help provide infant and baby supplies, but we need things like board games, personal hygiene products and clothing for teens and youth. It’s also important to note that we can only accept new items.”
There are several ways people can get involved with Home of the Innocents, including hosting a fundraiser, supporting a collection drive, selecting Home of the Innocents as a charitable recipient at Kroger, AmazonSmile, or Nanz & Kraft Florists, and attending an information session.
“We’re helping more than just the population of Louisville,” Pack says. “Through our various programming throughout the state, we serve Kentucky’s greater commonwealth.”
Cheryl Wimsatt has hosted a toy drive and craft show benefitting the Home for the last six years. This year’s event is on December 10 from noon to 6 p.m. at Bud’s Tavern (9119 Galene Drive in Louisville). She also accepts donations at her hair salon, Looks Hair & Nail Salon (201 Breckenridge Lane, Suite 103 in St. Matthews), throughout the holiday season.
“I was compelled to help Home of the Innocents because these kids have been through so much,” Wimsatt says. “Often, they’re the victims of abuse or neglect, and the Home helps protect them from those situations. I just want these kids to have a good day when they receive these toys, and to know people in the community care about them.”
Home of the Innocents is located at 1100 East Market Street in Louisville. To learn more and to get involved, call 502-596-1000 or visit homeoftheinnocents.org.