by James Rada, Jr., photography by Phil Grout
Located in Littlestown, Hoffman Homes reminds you of a small college combined with a farm. It’s a place where children who have lived in far from safe environments find safety; it’s a home where children who struggle with daunting mental health concerns can live, go to school, and receive the therapies they need with the goal of returning them to a supportive environment.
More than a century of helping children
Hoffman Homes for Youth first opened in 1910 as an orphanage when George and Agnes Hoffman donated 193 acres of farm land to the United Church of Christ (UCC). The children who came to the orphanage worked on the farm and learned life skills until they were 18 years old.
By 1960, the need for orphanages had declined, but the board of directors saw a new need that the Hoffman Homes for Youth could fill. The home began admitting court-adjudicated children. The children attended local schools and continued learning life skills while living at the Hoffman Homes for Youth.
In 1990, Hoffman Homes for Youth shifted its mission once again to provide children with severe emotional disturbances comprehensive psychiatric care, treatment, and education.
“We’ve always served children in need, but the needs of the children have changed,” said C. Mitchell Snider, Chief Executive Officer and President of Hoffman Homes for Youths.
Hoffman Homes today
At any given time, there are about 85 children living at Hoffman Homes. They are cared for by 200 employees. About 200 different children pass through Hoffman Homes each year.
“We get 10 to 15 referrals a week,” Snider said. “Only about 25 percent make it through the door.”
The average youth who comes to Hoffman Homes will spend eight months living there. They will only occasionally leave the campus and it is usually because the youth earned the off-campus time or a group of children is being taken off campus to work on a specific social skill. Some children will even attend school in the Gettysburg School District and return to the Hoffman Homes campus in the afternoon.
“Parents can even come and visit,” Snider said. “Some of the children even go home on the weekends.”
While living at Hoffman Homes, the children’s medical, dental, education, and therapy expenses are paid for. However, some items like eyeglasses, some medications, and capital improvements to the campus need to paid for by fundraising efforts.
The children, who can be as young as six years old, live in a structured group setting where they learn basic life and social skills.
“They do what normal kids do in a day with therapy woven in, and it is always supervised,” Snider said.
At the beginning of this school year, Hoffman Homes changed its mission once again, or rather, expanded it.
All youth at Hoffman Homes are educated at a private academic school on the campus called The Hoffman Academy. The school offers education for grades 1-12 across nine classrooms. Each classroom has a state certified special education teacher, a trained mental health worker, and a teacher’s assistant. The classes are small to allow for personalized education that best meets the student’s individual education plan (IEP).
Besides the classrooms, each student has an iPad that he or she can use in school. Other resources in the school include a sensory room where students can go with a therapist to rest and relax as they talk with a therapist.
Hoffman Homes also offers creative therapies, such as pet therapy, equine therapy, art therapy, and horticulture therapy to try and reach students in a way that simply talking with a therapist can’t.
“Our strength here is our creative therapies,” said Walter Smith, director of education. “I would have given my right arm to have these resources when I was teaching in public schools.”
The change that is coming to the program is that The Hoffman Academy is now accepting day students. Until now, a student had to also reside at Hoffman Homes in order to attend The Hoffman Academy, but now students from York, Adams, and Franklin counties can be bussed to the school.
The youths who come to Hoffman Homes reside in home units that are divided by gender and age.
“We try to have no more than a four-year difference in their ages to avoid problems between older children and young ones,” Snider said.
About a dozen youths are placed in each residence where they have chores that they are expected to do each day. This might include laundry, cleaning, or helping prepare meals. At night, two staff members make constant bed checks on the youths in their residence to make sure that they are staying in bed and not getting into any mischief.
Once a child is deemed ready to leave Hoffman Homes, transition therapy begins for the child. Also, an aftercare program is designed. According to Snider, about 85 percent of the children return home to a family setting, 14 percent return to a foster setting, and one percent return to some other living arrangement.
For nearly all of them, they will not have to return to Hoffman Homes. “Less than five percent of the children have to come back,” Snider said.
The reason for this, he added, is that the aftercare program isn’t followed to give the child the support he or she needed to make a successful transition. Some services might not be available, transportation to available services might not be available or there might be a very long waiting list for those services.
If that is the case, though, Hoffman Homes will help the child again and try to find another way to allow him or her to be successful at home.
“Our goal is family reunification,” Snider said.
While Hoffman Homes for Youth gets money to take care of the children who live there, taking care of their facilities requires fundraising. Hoffman Homes has three major fundraising events this year that raise an average of $400,000. For more information, please contact the Hoffman Homes Development Office at 717-359-7148, ext. 4501. Visit us at hoffmanhomes.com.
May 7, 2016 “Run for a Reason” 5K Family Run/Walk at Hoffman Homes
A family-friendly 5K Fun run/walk featuring barn tours and a virtual horse race.
June 6, 2016 19th Annual Golf Tournament at the Hanover Country Club
Participants enjoy lunch, an awards dinner, complimentary participation gifts, four-person scramble golf, drinks on the course, hole-in-one, longest drive and closest-to-the pin challenges, and more.
November 4, 2016 Annual Gala & Dinner at the Hanover Country Club
The annual bash to celebrate our supporters and raise funds.