History of Canopy
The organization that later becomes Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy) opened its doors in 1912 with the mission of placing orphaned children into permanent, loving homes.
While adoption has remained a staple of our organization for more than a century, Canopy Children’s Solutions has become much more than an adoption agency. Through time and cultural shifts, changes in society, and in the definition of “family,” Canopy has expanded its role as a champion for Mississippi’s children. Over the past 100 years, Canopy pioneered programs for children suffering from abuse, addiction, psychiatric illness, and developmental disorders. When it seemed like there was no one to turn to and no place to go, Canopy was there.
“While our name has changed, our unwavering commitment to serving the needs of Mississippi children and families remains steadfast.”
—Dr. John Damon, CEO of Canopy Children’s Solutions
Canopy Children’s Solutions is born at a meeting of the National Children’s Home Society in Columbus, Ohio, in 1910 following impassioned pleas from the heads of two Mississippi-based orphanages. They assert the state is in dire need of an organization dedicated to placing children in need of a home with loving, caring families who desperately want them.
On January 2, 1912, the Children’s Home Society is founded in Meridian, Mississippi. They begin with only four children in need and 25 cents to their name. The headquarters then relocates to Jackson in 1913, officially incorporating as Mississippi Children’s Home Society (The Society). During 1916, the Kate McWillie Powers Receiving Home is constructed across the street from Millsaps College. This facility is used as a temporary home for The Society’s children until they can be placed in permanent homes.
The early years of The Society are marked by devastating circumstances such as the Mississippi River Flood of 1927 and the Great Depression. Already a poor, rural state, Mississippi is hit especially hard during these times. Large numbers of children find themselves without families. As a result, The Society begins to solidify its role as an advocate for the poor and needy children of the state.
The economy improves during WWII, bringing more jobs to Mississippi. Federal aid programs offer help for families with children. Consequently, more families are able to keep children in the home than in previous, less fortunate years. Though there are fewer adoptions, the organization finds new ways to meet the needs of children. The Society’s charter is amended to extend its services to unwed mothers, thus providing them with prenatal care.
1950 – 1979
As the 1950’s begin, The Society faces formidable challenges. The number of families waiting to adopt children far outweighs the number of adoptable children. This creates an unregulated “black market” situation in which children are placed in homes without a licensed agency. The Society works closely with other child welfare advocates to become a voice for children. They urge state officials to pass legislation to protect children from unregulated adoptions in which a child risked being placed in an unfit home.
When adoption laws are adopted in the mid-1950s, they provide protections for the adoptive families. However, they do little to prevent unlicensed adoptions from taking place. The Society then establishes an active voice throughout the state. They begin urging those placing children up for adoption as well as families seeking to adopt to only work with licensed and regulated adoption agencies. This leads to the establishment of Crestview Maternity Home in 1957. The home provides unwed mothers a private location to live and receive prenatal care during their pregnancies. They also assist mothers pursuing adoption to find suitable, permanent homes for their babies.
Throughout the 1960s, The Society continues to expand services to unwed, expectant mothers. A new facility is built with more comfortable and private amenities. Much time and care is given to young women to help them prepare for post-birth issues and the adoption of their children. In 1962, a new Crestview Maternity Home is built. This facility is one of only two licensed maternity homes in the state. Three years later, Crestview becomes a member of the National Florence Crittenton Association, changing its name to Crestview-Crittenton Home.
A new administration/services center facility is built in 1975 on the site of the former Kate McWillie Powers Receiving Home.
1980 – 1999
The 1980’s and 90’s are a time of great change and exponential growth. The Society expands its role beyond caring for expectant mothers and orphaned children. The Society is now a full-service child welfare agency. They add a group home for adolescent girls and counseling programs for runaway teens, girls, and their families.
In 1981, a Mother/Child Center is established to aid high-risk new mothers choosing to keep their children. In 1983, The Society is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children. Two years later, The Society receives funding and opens a new program called the ARK, a residential treatment center for chemically-dependent youth.
The Society then merges with Family Service of Greater Jackson in 1986. This allows them to provide more comprehensive counseling and support services for the entire family. Two years after the merger, The Society/FSA receives the “Best Managed Agency” award from the United Way of the Capital Area.
Especially noteworthy is the creation of Mississippi’s first private, nonprofit, residential center for children with emotional and behavioral issues, CARES Center, in 1992. Two years following, the first of the CARES Schools opens in Jackson. The Society further expanded services, opening children’s crisis shelters in Warren County and Hattiesburg as well as therapeutic group homes in communities throughout the state.
2000 – 2009
Adoption services remains a vital piece of the organization, but The Society begins expanding its services to meet the ever-changing needs of children and families. An array of community-based, residential, and educational programs is created as a result.
Mississippi Children’s Home Society is officially renamed Mississippi Children’s Home Services (MCHS) in 2003 to more accurately communicate its role in the community. MCHS relocates Gulf Coast services to a newly-purchased 80-acres of land in Harrison County. The following year, MCHS receives a large agency “Award for Excellence” in nonprofit management and a “Salute to Business and Industry” in 2005.
The community-based service system expanded in 2007. Regional offices are developed in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Gulfport, and Tupelo. Satellite offices are created in Batesville, Greenville, Meridian, and McComb. MCHS then successfully implements the Mississippi Youth Program Around the Clock (MYPAC), a program for children with serious emotional disturbances. MCHS also obtains Mississippi Department of Human Services approval for the CARES Center to become a state immunization site.
A grand opening and dedication is held in 2009 for new facilities on the North Campus in Jackson. The site on MCHS’s Jean Austin Bagley Campus supports 50 children and includes three, 10-bed cottages and a 2-story arts and education facility called the William Louis Albritton Arts and Education building. That same year, a new CARES School campus opens in Hattiesburg.
2010 – 2016
MCHS creates the Mississippi Center for Behavioral Sciences in 2010 through the Jackson, Hattiesburg, and Gulfport CARES Schools. The center begins offering clinical services, parent training, teacher training, comprehensive psycho-educational and behavioral assessments, and specialized academic classes to support families with children on the autism spectrum.
Next, MCHS creates the Comprehensive Family Support Services Program (CFSSP). CFSSP becomes the state’s only provider of family reunification and family preservation services. Building begins on the Saucier-based Transitional Living and Learning Center (TLC) in 2010 and opens two years later.
In 2013, MCHS receives a Community Mental Health Center designation. This allows the Behavioral Health Clinics to accept Medicaid, third party insurance, or private payment. The following year, MCHS receives funding from the Mississippi Division of Medicaid to develop the ABA therapy-based Early Intervention Autism Pilot Program for children 18 months to 8 years of age. Early intervention services are also established for children without Medicaid, accepting third party insurance, and private payment. Furthermore, MCHS joins in collaboration with University of Mississippi Medical Center to integrate primary, behavioral health, and tele-health services to families and children statewide.
In 2016, MCHS converts the Transitional Living and Learning Center (TLC) in Saucier into a second psychiatric residential treatment center—the CARES Center Gulf Coast. This 20-bed facility provides care for children 13 to 17 years of age with extreme emotional and behavioral challenges and includes a subsequent CARES School for the residents. It also establishes a new Adolescent Substance Abuse Program through the Behavioral Health Clinics in Jackson and Natchez to help youth ages 12-17 battling addiction to drugs or alcohol.
MCHS Becomes Canopy Children’s Solutions
In November 2016, Mississippi Children’s Home Services is renamed Canopy Children’s Solutions. Our name now reflects the breadth of behavioral health, educational, and social solutions we provide for children and families across the state.
In 2017, Canopy expanded our family preservation and family reunification program, in-CIRCLE. In September 2018, Canopy opened the Canopy Center of Excellence in Jackson. The Center of Excellence offers integrated care through the delivery of psychiatric solutions, outpatient therapy and autism interventions in a single location. In 2019, Canopy opened an additional Early Intervention Autism Clinic in Hattiesburg.
Canopy has adapted to provide timely solutions to changing needs of Mississippi children and families. As we boldly step into our second century of service, we will proactively advance and rededicate our commitment to transforming the lives of Mississippi’s children.