The Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries (ABCH) has championed the statewide cause of needy, neglected and dependent children since the late 1800s. Thousands of children and their families have received food, shelter, love, comfort and spiritual guidance under the Christian direction of dedicated men and women.
(To see a full timeline of our history to present day, visit our anniversary site: alabamachild125.org.)
Maintaining the Ministry
ABCH has flourished through the years because of the blessings of God and the continued faithfulness of the churches and friends that support us. These have offered financial and other forms of support to the ministry, especially in its early years and during the Great Depression when cash was very limited.
At those times, churches and individuals filled railroad cars with food and sent them to ministry locations to make sure the children did not go hungry. The children and staff also stayed busy working the ministry’s farms and gardens. Many of the “old timers” from ABCH have fond memories of dozens of children gathering around large tables with basic, but ample food for the day.
Beginning and Growing
The ministry of ABCH began through the efforts of Rev. John Stewart. His dream of a childcare ministry, provided by Alabama Baptists, became a reality in 1891 with the construction of a home in Evergreen, Alabama. In 1923, ABCH’s leadership recognized the need for relocation and moved to Troy, Alabama.
In 1927, the ministry began to expand its services when Dr. J.O. Colley, ABCH superintendent, led in the development of a mother’s aide program. Through this program, the ministry began to help children stay with their biological families by giving financial and other assistance to mothers in need.
The ministry further expanded in 1964 when its first Campus Care home in central Alabama was opened in Birmingham. Five years later, the campus serving north Alabama began operation in Decatur. In 1970, the agency was given the former Protestant Children’s Home in Mobile, strengthening the capacity of ABCH to provide services statewide.
Though many children and youth respond well to campus homes, other children require more specialized placement. From this need came the Foster Care ministry, which has grown to serve more children annually than the campus home setting we began with. Physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, and other emergency situations also brought a need for immediate placement for some children. In 1983, the first emergency shelter, (now called Shelter Care), for such children opened on the Troy Campus. Today, Shelter Care is provided on the Decatur and Oxford campuses.
In an effort to further serve the mental and emotional needs of the children, Pathways Professional Counseling opened its doors in 1995. Although our professional counseling ministry began specifically to serve children, we have expanded our services to the general public serving men, women, and children as part of our “Family Ministries” namesake.
Relocation and Mission
In 1997, the ministry again decided to relocate, and so sold its property in Troy and moved its administrative offices to Birmingham and began the process of opening other ministry centers across the state. Today, we have offices in Birmingham, Decatur, Dothan, Montgomery, Oxford, and Mobile, and we offer professional counseling services in over 40 locations.
What began as a small home for children in Evergreen has grown to be the state’s most diverse childcare ministry. Many changes have occurred during our history, but the core commitment to love children and youth and to bring them to know Jesus Christ has never changed.
Today, we proudly continue our legacy as a ministry that “protects, nurtures, and restores children and families through Christ-centered services.”
. . . let the Baptists know what you’ve got and they’ll do the rest. — ABCH Founder, Rev. John W. Stewart (1890)