The War of 1812 resulted in mass chaos instability of communities resulted in homeless and destitute children- no less than how the drug epidemic has affected communities today. Back then the need existed for a safe haven for the protection and nurturing of children of the District of Columbia. Washington City orphan Asylum, better known today as the Hillcrest Children's Center. It is an institution rich in history.
Congress conferred a Federal Charter in 1815, on what was then called the “Washington Orphan Society,” and Dolly Madison was elected its first Directress. The mandate of the young Institution was to provide food, housing, and job training to the boys and girls then wandering the city's streets. With uncommon foresight and while providing this new institution always remain flexible enough to meet the changing needs of young people in the nation's capital.
In the tradition of its initial leadership more than 175 years ago by President Madison's energetic and vivacious “First Lady,” this institution is still achieving and growing today. In keeping with its original charter, it has changed its emphasis several times in order to meet new conditions in the country and in the city. For more than 100 years, it continued to provide a house for orphaned, abandoned and neglected children. The institution provided such children with educational and vocational training in addition to a caring environment for which they could grow into productive adulthood. In 1935, when new facilities were built at Nebraska Avenue and Van Ness Streets, the name of the institution was changed to “Hillcrest,” a Children's Village,” to reflected its expanding role.
By 1950, postwar prosperity and chaining family patterns had dramatically reduced number of orphans needing care. The Directors of the institution perceived a new need: to treat and car for children with severe emotional problems requiring residential care. In 1951, to meet this need, Hillcrest entered into a partnership with the Washington Institute of Mental Hygiene and Children's Hospital. Working in concert, the tree organizations cooperated in opening the first residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed children in the District of Columbia. At that point, the Hillcrest Children's Village became the “Hillcrest Children's Center,” In a very short time, it earned a emotional reputation as a leader in the field of treating severely disturbed youngsters and as a professional training center for therapist and other professionals working with disturbed children. In October 1965, 150 years after its founding, the institution broke ground for a modern facility at 1325 W Street, N.W.
In recent years, responding to the needs of children in the inner city, Hillcrest –no longer affiliated with Children's Hospital, after its move from the neighborhood-once again shifted its emphasis. It moved from providing residential care to providing outpatient mental health services for children and their families. Special emphasis has been placed, on the needs of single parents, especially teen-aged mothers, and on families crippled by poverty. Hillcrest provides professional testing and counseling services to the highly acclaimed Edward C. Masque Parent and Child Center, serving young children, their families, and other adults living in deprived circumstances.
In working with this agency, Hillcrest helps young parents to raise children who will be able to break out of the cycle of poverty and under education into which they were born. Programs at Hillcrest also serve physically and emotionally abused children and their families. Expanded service, growing our of Hillcrest's current in-house and outreach program is now beginning to meet the special psychological needs of the children of the homeless, those of substance abusers, those threatened by the AIDS epidemic, and-especially –the adolescent sons of inner city families who have become the special victims of the drug scene, internecine violence, and self-destructive behavior.