Our work at Hephzibah is about transforming lives. We bring to Hephzibah, on a daily basis, a deep passion for creating an environment where children can grow into beautiful, strong, caring members of society.
Hephzibah is Oak Park’s oldest social service agency—founded in 1897 when a village resident named Mary Wessels opened her home to two young boys. A postcard addressed to a friend is the only remaining record of Hephzibah’s beginnings. It reads, “I have begun my work. I have two boys, ages six and seven.”
Later, when a local orphanage was destroyed by fire, Mary took in more than a dozen orphans and made it her mission to care for “society’s most vulnerable children.” With Mary, these children found safety, sustenance, comfort and love. She called the fledgling children’s home Hephzibah, after her mother. The name, which means “comforting mother” in Hebrew, was a perfect expression of Mary’s founding mission to create a nurturing haven for children in need.
Today, more than a century later, Hephzibah’s mission is a multifaceted one. We offer short- and long-term group homes for children traumatized by neglect and abuse; child welfare and family services; foster care and adoption programs; Head Start and Early Head Start programs to give infants, toddlers and preschoolers from low-income families the best possible start in life; and award-winning day care on a sliding scale for families of all income levels.
Our internationally recognized children’s home is built in the shape of the letter H, which stands for healing, hope, happiness and, of course, Hephzibah!
To help children thrive and families flourish through innovative, community-based programs.
Hephzibah is licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services as a child welfare agency, group home, child care institution and day care center.
Hephzibah is accredited by the National Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services, Inc. in New York.
Hephzibah receives funding from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and Department of Human Services, Day Care program fees, the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, the Illinois State Board of Education, Oak Park’s School District 97 and our own fundraising activities.