A History of Caring

Located in downtown Charleston, Florence Crittenton Programs of South Carolina has been serving the state of South Carolina since 1897. Our mission is to provide hope, safety and opportunity to young women in order to instill self-worth and self-sufficiency. We value the right of every pregnant young woman to obtain the education, skills, and support needed to have a healthy start in life – for both herself and her child.

The first Florence Crittenton home opened in New York City in 1883 as the Florence Night Mission to serve “lost and fallen women and wayward girls.” Founded by Charles Crittenton, a self-made millionaire and philanthropist, the home was named after his daughter, who died from scarlet fever at age four. Similar homes that were founded as Crittenton homes or that would one day become members of the Crittenton family flourished across the country. By 1914, there were 76 Crittenton homes in the United States, as well as in China, France, Japan and Mexico. Many homes, including our Charleston location, were founded as a direct result of Mr. Crittenton’s generosity.

In 1897, Charleston resident Claudia Tharin came across a newspaper article about the suicide attempt of a young, unmarried pregnant woman who had come to Charleston to give birth. Ms. Tharin was so touched by this young woman’s story that she, along with a group of Charleston women, established the Christ Love Mission, a network of altruistic volunteers who provided support and limited residential care in their own homes to single pregnant women and mothers in need. This revolutionary new movement was soon supported by Kate Waller Barrett, MD, one of the first female pediatricians in the United States.

In 1899, Dr. Barrett invited Charles Crittenton to visit the Charleston program’s small office at 10 Washington Street. Mr. Crittenton made a financial contribution, and the agency name was changed to The Florence Crittenton Home and Hospital. Parents, social agencies, physicians, clergymen and school personnel referred young women in need to the agency. Families paid what they could, and a network of dedicated volunteers kept the agency in operation. In 1923, the agency was incorporated as a non-profit organization, with Mrs. H. Jermain Slocum as its first president. Mr. Crittenton’s continued financial support led to the development of a residential home, which began construction in 1927. The first client was admitted to the present Charleston facility at 19 Saint Margaret Street in 1932. Since that time, the Florence Crittenton residential facility for single pregnant women has been in operation, and continues to be the only agency of its kind in South Carolina.

Until the early 1950s, private physicians donating their services delivered the infants at the residential facility. Dr. Henry W. deSaussure served as the principal obstetrician, and Dr. Joseph I. Waring coordinated the services of private pediatricians who cared for the infants on a volunteer basis. Later, infants were delivered at Roper Hospital until the Medical University of South Carolina assumed this responsibility in 1954, under the leadership of Dr. Lawrence L. Hester, Jr., Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

A free-standing chapel was built next to the residential facility in 1954, providing a place for religious services, discussion groups, Bible study and meditation, as well as weddings, baptisms and funerals. In 1990, following Hurricane Hugo, the chapel was renovated and re-dedicated, and was then opened to the entire community, as it is today.

In 1984, in response to the increasing number of inquiries for educational services without residential care (chiefly because school dropouts as a result of pregnancy were escalating in Charleston County), the agency investigated the possibility of developing a daytime school program. Funded by the South Carolina General Assembly, the school program began operation at 701 East Bay Street in 1986. The name of the agency became Florence Crittenton Programs of South Carolina in order to reflect this expansion of services. In 1985, the agency was accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services to Families and Children.

Soon after, the agency determined a need for a transitional living program for parents and infants who lacked support. The Family Development Program was established in 1997, with eight subsidized apartments for parents and children. In 1999, the program expanded to a Nunan Street site, adding two more apartments. Today, our Family Development Program continues to provide housing assistance and supportive services to single parents and their children.

The National Registry of Historical Places recognized the Florence Crittenton residential facility as a historical landmark in 1997. In 2006, an In-House Medical Clinic was initiated in collaboration with the Medical University of South Carolina in order to provide holistic pre-natal care on-site for clients, as it was in the early years of the agency. In 2007, the National Crittenton Foundation opened its headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Today, 34 members of the historical Crittenton family of agencies provide a full spectrum of prevention and intervention services to at-risk and system-involved girls, young women and their families.

Throughout an astonishing 120-year history, Florence Crittenton Programs of South Carolina has been providing care to low-income, disadvantaged pregnant and parenting mothers in need. In 2009, the Council on Accreditation re-accredited our agency through 2013, demonstrating that our agency delivers the highest quality services.

Today we continue to build strong families, healthy teens and self-sufficient young adults by providing education, counseling, medical care, social support and a safe haven. From its humble beginnings, the ongoing vision of the agency has always been to provide hope, safety and opportunity so that every child and family served gains a sense of self-worth and the ability to achieve full potential. Our program provides our clients with the skills to become self-sufficient parents and members of the community.