Crittenton celebrates a century of caring Program assists troubled adolescent girls

January 25, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

$TC Florence Crittenton Services of Baltimore Inc. marks its 100th birthday this week as one of the city's enduring, influential nonprofit institutions, tracing its history to the Bowery's red-light district in 1881, when a New York businessman heard preachers tell prostitutes, "Go and sin no more."

But the women had nowhere to go.

Wealthy New York businessman Charles N. Crittenton began the program after his 4-year-old daughter, Florence, died of scarlet fever. Seeing the Bowery frustrations, he "became religious," gave up his lucrative drug company and dedicated himself to helping "erring women and fallen men."

This meant prostitutes and drunks, but mostly unmarried pregnant young women. After a few years, the men were dropped (some speculate the burden was too heavy).

Traveling from city to city in his private railroad car, Mr. Crittenton set up havens for troubled girls. He visited Baltimore in 1896. Soon after, a Crittenton home was founded in the parsonage of High Street Methodist Church, moved to 837 Hollins St., then moved in 1926 to its current location in the former Hooper mansion in Hampden.

The Baltimore centennial began Monday with a luncheon and yearlong plans reported by board President Brian Wallace to mark "A Century of Loving Care," Crittenton's record of helping pregnant, abused and neglected adolescent girls.

Anne S. Davis, executive director for 19 years, related the Crittenton history and after the luncheon, said 100 girls between 13 and 17 lived at the Crittenton lodgings in Hampden this past year.

"Thirty girls stay here at any one time in three different populations," she said. All are children taken temporarily from their parents' custody by the courts and committed to the foster program of the Department of Social Services.

Mrs. Davis said the largest group at any one time, 16 or 17, is made up of girls who have been sexually or physically abused at home. They stay an average of 10 to 12 months. The next largest is a group of about seven or eight pregnant unmarried girls who stay about seven months. The last group consists of young mothers with their babies, staying up to two years; beds exist for six mothers with children.

Directed from offices at 3110 Crittenton Place, programs include residential services for abused girls, pregnancy and parent preparation programs, professional counseling and complete medical care, and the Mill School, an accredited school program.

"Our cutting-edge residential educational and counseling programs help ensure that girls whose families have let them down are able to get the best possible foundation for a better life -- no matter how long or short their stay with us is," Mrs. Davis said.

In a day when nonprofit institutions proliferate, Patricia Jagielski, centennial chairwoman, said, "It's an unbelievable accomplishment for a small nonprofit to sustain itself for 100 years."

Crittenton in Baltimore will hold its annual meeting March 6 and sponsor a debate on welfare reform, family values, teen pregnancy and related matters June 12 at the University of Maryland medical school in Baltimore.

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