Our History

History MainWhat is known today as the Hillside Family of Agencies began in 1837 as the Rochester Female Association for the Relief of Orphans and Destitute Children. The association members—who included the wives of many influential Rochester businessmen and church leaders—were dedicated to caring for the city’s orphans.

Little did these women know that their founding efforts would grow to become a nationally recognized integrated system of care, serving thousands of families and children each year, with dozens of programs and multiple service sites throughout the state.

In the first year, 46 children were served in a small rented cottage on Corn Hill. Renamed and incorporated as the Rochester Orphan Asylum in 1839, the organization constructed a larger facility in 1844 at Hubbell Park. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, this facility and the organization’s efforts grew in response to the needs of area children. Orphans were still admitted, but also children in crisis whose families struggled to provide for them.

Even a devastating fire on January 8, 1901, could not stop the spirit of service that drove the leaders of the Rochester Orphan Asylum. That tragic fire destroyed more than half of the Hubbell Park building, and killed 29 children and 3 staff. The Rochester community grieved for the terrible loss of life and put their full support behind rebuilding efforts.

In 1905, the Rochester Orphan Asylum moved to a 30-acre location on Pinnacle Hill (what is now the Monroe Avenue headquarters of Hillside Family of Agencies). The new location was built as an innovative cottage system to reflect the changing theories in caring for children. Efforts were focused on keeping troubled children within the parental home or family unit, with the entire family receiving necessary services. When a family’s situation made this impossible, the child would be removed from the home and housed in an institution. At the Rochester Orphan Asylum, the cottages created a home-like environment within the boundaries of the institution.

To reflect the shift from providing a home for orphans to caring for “dependent and neglected children,” the Rochester Orphan Asylum changed its name in 1921 to Hillside Home for Children. Another name change came in 1940 when Hillside Children’s Center was adopted and a goal set: “for every child, a fair chance for the development of a healthy personality.”

This goal took on an international aspect during World War II when Hillside and Eastman Kodak Company combined efforts to help the children of Kodak employees in England. Between 1940 and 1942, 156 British children were brought to the Rochester area by Kodak to safeguard them from the war in their home country. Hillside assisted in placing these “Kodakids,” as they were called, with the families of local Kodak employees or in foster homes for the duration of the war.

As the years progressed, Hillside continued to grow and change to accommodate the needs of more children, including those with more difficult problems. In 1965, Hillside broadened its mission to helping “dependent, neglected, learning disabled, emotionally disturbed, socially maladjusted, and delinquent” children. The importance of the family was recognized, including the need to reunite children with their families whenever possible. As Adelaide Kaiser, director of Hillside Children’s Center from 1949 to 1969, said, “No matter how good a job we do, we can never make up to a child what he loses by not being with his parents.” Kaiser and others began to create programs and life skills classes to prepare children to return to society, either in biological family homes or in foster or adoptive family homes.

During the 1970s, Hillside Children’s Center experienced great growth. The institution began its conversion to a residential treatment center and reopened its campus school, which had been closed since 1931. In 1976, the emergency shelter and crisis-counseling program began, providing a safe haven for children and youth in times of desperation. A day treatment program made it possible to keep more children with their families while providing them with the services they needed.

In 1996 a new parent organization, Hillside Behavioral Health System (HBHS), was formed in order to provide services more efficiently and effectively. Hillside Children’s Center and Hillside Children’s Foundation served as partner affiliates.

A new affiliate, the Wegmans Work-Scholarship Connection, was acquired later in 1996. Founded by Wegmans Food Markets in 1987 as a mentoring program to improve the graduation rate within Rochester City Schools, the program was named one of President Bush’s “Thousand Points of Light” in 1991. Renamed Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, the program continued its focus on helping youth stay in school, achieve academic success, and earn their high school diplomas through a web of support provided by school-based youth advocates and worksite mentors. Since its inception, HW-SC has consistently helped more than 85% of participating students to graduate from high school and gain acceptance into college—a statistic that demonstrates the effectiveness of this cutting-edge program.

In 1999, Hillside Behavioral Health System added to its family when Crestwood Children’s Center and Crestwood Children’s Foundation affiliated with it. Founded in 1885 as the Infant Summer Hospital of Charlotte, Crestwood’s specific mission is to provide comprehensive mental health services to culturally diverse children and adolescents who have serious emotional, behavioral, or mental disorders. Like the other members of the Hillside family, Crestwood provides these services in partnership with families.

Hillside Family of Agencies was adopted as the system name in December 2000 to better represent the diversity of services provided by each affiliate. In the years that followed, the organization continued to grow in pursuit of its strategy to build an integrated system of care for youth and their families.

In May 2004, this path of growth led to Hillside Family of Agencies signing an affiliation agreement with Snell Farm Children’s Center, a rural campus outside of Bath, New York, providing specialized residential treatment for adolescent boys who have sexually abusive behavior. Later this year, Hillside Children’s Center, another affiliate of Hillside Family of Agencies, also contributed to the growth of the system by approving the finalization of a merger with Adoption Resource Network, Inc. in October.

Today, Hillside Family of Agencies is not only one of Rochester’s oldest family services organizations, but one of the most innovative and well respected. Hillside affiliates provide a full range of services, including home and community-based programs, non-secure detention, residential treatment, day treatment education, foster care, emergency services, outpatient mental health services, and customized services. In locations throughout Central and Western New York, Hillside employees are dedicated to building better futures with children and families. 


If you are looking for information about relatives who lived at Hillside prior to the 1960s, that information is housed by the University of Rochester Library system.  Use the link below to connect with the reference librarians at the University of Rochester to help in your search.