History

Though it has operated under the name of New Directions Youth and Family Services since only 1999, the work of our agency goes back more than 130 years.

The Wyndham Lawn Home for Children in Lockport and the Randolph Children’s Home, near Jamestown, were founded independently of each other in the 1800s and merged in 1999.
Wyndham Lawn Home for Children

Wyndham Lawn Home for Children

At the end of the Civil War, many widows and orphans of soldiers were left destitute. To provide aid, the Lockport Ladies Relief Society was organized in 1865. Six years later, it set up a Home for the Friendless (as such institutions were called at that time) in a building at 387 High Street. It originally housed both adults and children, but by 1879 was operated exclusively as an orphanage.
Overcrowding became a problem and a new site was needed. John Hodge, president of the Board of Trustees, donated his property, known as Wyndham Lawn. It was comprised of 78 acres of land as well as a stone mansion that once served as the summer home of former New York State Governor Washington Hunt.

Mr. Hodge also made a bequest in 1898 to construct an addition to the mansion called the Hodge Wing. In 1900, another benefactor, Roger Wolcott Keep, added the Keep Wing. These two wings were the sole residences for children for more than half a century.
In 1966, Wyndham Lawn purchased a house on East Avenue in Lockport that still serves as a group home. In 1968, a bequest by David Mecorney enabled the construction of Mecorney Cottage. More construction followed, and children are now housed in six separate buildings on the campus.

During this period, Wyndham Lawn evolved from an orphanage to a facility caring for children with emotional and behavioral problems.  Wyndham Lawn and Randolph Children’s Home merged in 1999 to form New Directions Youth and Family Services.

In 2000, the Henrietta G. Lewis Campus School was built. It provides state-of-the-art academic facilities for Wyndham Lawn residents as well as for day students from surrounding communities.

Randolph Children’s Home

The Rev. Charles Strong, a Congregational minister who had been a chaplain at Sing Sing Prison, felt that criminal behavior could be prevented if help was provided to boys when they were young. In 1877, he opened a home, located on what is now the site of Randolph Children’s Home, and admitted two neglected boys.

In 1878, a society was founded for the permanent care and treatment of neglected children. Within two years, 40 children were being cared for.

In 1880, the home was destroyed by fire, but two years later a large brick building was erected and the home was reopened.

Construction and expansion continued. An addition to the main building was constructed in 1890, permitting the home to care for 148 children.

Because of the number of babies and toddlers it received, a nursery was constructed in 1900. That same year, an endowment fund was started to ensure the perpetuity of the society.

In 1904, a school building was completed with capacity for 125 children. The Wheeler Memorial Building was erected in 1908 for industrial and recreational activities. A farm connected to the home provided work for the older boys and all of the dairy products for the home.

Randolph Children’s Home was ahead of its time, thanks to Superintendent Harry Colwell, who in 1924 championed an approach based on activities and community involvement. A band was organized and a swimming pool constructed. Children participated in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, went camping, and attended local churches and the public high school. Children, who used to leave at age 14, could now stay longer to learn life skills.

In the 1950s, new cottages were constructed to house children. Attached to each was an apartment that housed a married couple who supervised the children. Most of the old buildings were razed and farm operations were discontinued by that time.  

Around the 1960s, Randolph Children’s Home transitioned from an orphanage to a facility serving children with emotional and behavioral problems.

In 1983, Randolph Academy was founded. It’s a public school—actually a separate school district—to serve children with learning and behavioral problems. A new school building was constructed in 1991, and the former school was converted into residential space. A new administration and social work building was completed in 1992.

Programming expanded in the early 1990s. Global Village Therapeutic foster care, which uses specially trained foster parents, was started.  

In 1999, Randolph Children’s Home and Wyndham Lawn Home for Children merged to form New Directions Youth and Family Services. The agency continues to change to meet the needs of today’s children and families.

Our Mission