Then & Now: Heritage Series
Spero Family Services, Mt. Vernon, IL
The Orphan’s & Children’s Home of the Southern Illinois Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in the rolling hills of rural southern Illinois in 1913. In 1920, one of the main buildings was destroyed by fire. No children were harmed in the blaze and facility was rebuilt on land purchased by the Great Rivers Methodist Conference and the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce in nearby Mt. Vernon, IL. The two-story home, built in 1866, housed all of the children and the superintendent.
Over the following 40 years, the agency continued to care for orphans and locate adoptive homes. However, by the late 1960s and early 1970s a profound shift occurred in the needs of the children and youth entering care. More and more young people were suffering the effects of physical and sexual abuse and neglect. This required the organization to change its approach to a more therapeutic residential treatment model of service.
Starting in the 1990s, the state began expanding and contracting residential care for youth in state care. This necessitated the agency, now named Spero Family Services, to develop other lines of service in the community to ensure its survival.
Spero added foster care, a campus school, transitional living, community mental health counseling services, in-home parent education, prenatal family support, vocational services, and a child care facility. Counseling and wellness centers were expanded throughout Southern Illinois. Spero grew from one campus in Mt. Vernon serving a couple dozen children in 1990 to an agency that will be serving over 1,200 children, youth and families in 10 counties in 2017.
Spero Family Services is an EAGLE-accredited community affiliated with the United Methodist Church and the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. The organization changed its name in March 2017 to Spero Family Services. The name is Latin for “I hope” as the organization crafts its identity as an agency that celebrates the worth of the individual and flickering flame of hope that is the seed of all lasting change.