Salem4youth, also known as Salem Children’s Home, was chartered by the state of Illinois on December 22, 1896 with the stated purpose “to build and maintain a home for orphans and other worthy, destitute children, and for giving them industrial and religious training, and a common school education.” This purpose grew out of the Biblical faith convictions of the founding churches, then known as Defenseless Mennonite churches.
Salem4youth continues as an affiliate corporation of this family of churches, now known as the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches (FEC).
The idea of providing services to children in need came to fruition through the generosity of Daniel R. King (1828-1902) and his wife Mary (Claudon) King (1844-1897), childless members of the local FEC congregation. The Kings provided their 100-acre farm as a site for what was originally called Salem Orphanage.
Displaying the glory of God by presenting the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been a hallmark of the ministry of Salem since the first child arrived on June 22, 1900.
For many years children were cared for in a dormitory setting with a curriculum of education, work skills, and religious instruction. The changing reasons for the placement of children at Salem resulted in the change of the name from Salem Orphanage to Salem Children’s Home in 1944.
In 1945, Salem began to offer high school education and in 1956 students began attending the local high school. In 1964 cottage living with house parents began, and was reinstated in 2006 after a hiatus of several years. In 1967, all students from Salem were attending local schools.
As clientele and their needs changed, Salem became licensed as a boarding school under the Illinois Board of Education in 2006. All classroom instruction is given on campus with a curriculum structured to meet the needs of each student.
Foster care and a variety of community-based services expanded Salem’s ministry over the years. Today the ministry focus is on the core boarding school ministry to teen-age young men. An equine program became part of Salem’s ministry in 1985 followed by the introduction of an annual Arabian horse auction in 1992. In 2001 this led to the development of the current Salem4youth program, which integrates academic and vocational education with life skills training, real life farm work experiences, and spiritual direction.
Though still legally named Salem Children’s Home, in 2011 the Board of Directors approved Salem4youth as our official name.