A History of Caring for Children and Families

Throughout the 20th century, the children cared for at Beech Acres came with ever more serious problems, related both to abuse and to mental health challenges. By the 1980s, it was becoming clear that institutions were not the most effective way to raise troubled children. The residential program closed in 1989, replaced by a vigorous foster care program and a wide variety of social services that cared for troubled children out in the community amid a full network of relationships with parents, friends, and school. For the remainder of the 20th century, Beech Acres focused on being a high-quality provider of an array of social services designed to prevent the need for children to be placed in institutional care at all.

In celebration of the 150th anniversary, the Board and staff asked what Beech Acres could give back to the community that had supported them so generously. What had we learned in 150 years of caring for children? What one thing makes the most difference in the lives of the children? The answer was unanimous – the most important thing in a child’s life is the quality of parenting they receive. In 1999, Beech Acres held For the Love of Kids, a conference to celebrate parenting. Anticipating 200 participants, the first FLOK attracted 1,000. For a decade the conference continued helping parents learn about key topics in raising children.


In spring of 1849, a nationwide cholera epidemic hit Cincinnati taking the lives of 4,114 residents, most of whom were German.

The deadly disease left many children without parents. To care for them, a local Protestant German association agreed to build a new orphanage. But first they had to raise the necessary funds – so they formed the German General Protestant Orphan Society to take on the task.


 The Society chose Mt. Auburn as the home of the new orphanage. To finance the purchase of four acres from Judge Burnet, plus construction, the Society held a huge fundraising fair at Masonic Hall in December, 1849. It was wildly successful raking in $4,181. The cornerstone of the new German General Protestant Orphan Home was laid in July, 1850 and the orphans moved in a year later.


  The 1849 fair was the first Orphan Feast, a massive annual fundraising effort that continued for 137 years and included the biggest parade in Cincinnati. By the late 1940s, the Orphan Feast was the most popular fall event in Cincinnati and netted over $50,000.


  The Home purchased a 60-acre farm on the boundary of Mt. Washington and Anderson Township, a beautiful rural setting amid stately beech trees, where the children had been accustomed to camp for a few weeks each summer.

Board Chair Everett Townsley donated one-third of the purchase price for the new location, which came to be called Beech Acres. There were six cottages housing 10 to 12 children each and a handsome administration building, arranged around a grassy circular lawn. The property remains the headquarters of Beech Acres Parenting Center.


  After a century on Burnet Avenue, the Home moved and evolved into the Beech Acres Parenting Center of today. But our driving force has remained the same from the start – to help children grow into capable, contributing and caring adults.


  In 1950, the first Feast held at the new Anderson Township campus attracted over 80,000 visitors. Each year, a prominent citizen was elected Officer of the Day, the chief fundraiser for the event.

By 1986, it was clear that other fundraising methods would be more effective, and with some regret over losing a long tradition, the Orphan Feast was held for the last time.


For the Love of Kids Conference, Beech Acres Parenting Center presented the For the Love of Kids ® parenting conference from 1999 to 2011. Through the conference, we’re proud to have reached hundreds of parents striving to bring out the best in their kids. These parents joined us to gain practical parenting insight and useful ideas from dynamic national and local parenting experts.