A Century of Care

  • For over 127 years LCFS has remained steadfast in helping strengthen lives, families and communities with services to support the vulnerable, voiceless, or those in greatest need.
  • Throughout its history, the agency has been led by professional staff and leaders who were willing to make program adjustments to meet changing needs and demands.
  • LCFS has always been supported by communities, foundations and individuals who understand that the strongest individuals, families and communities are those who are healthy in mind, body and spirit.

LCFS History. Three name changes. One strong mission.

In 1896 a group of Lutheran clergy and lay people came together to provide an alternative to overcrowded orphanages in Milwaukee County. They called themselves the Evangelical Lutheran Kinderfreund Society of Wisconsin and opened their homes to care for children awaiting adoption. Many point to this as one of the early examples of foster care in the United States.

The need to protect vulnerable children was great, as was the outreach from the community to shelter, foster and adopt. In the 1920s, a Children’s Receiving Home, housing over 30 children at a time and overseen by “Hausfraus” was constructed at 8138 Harwood Avenue in Wauwatosa. By 1928 over 1900 children were housed, cared for and adopted into loving families. By the 1940’s that number grew to over 5000. At that time, the agency’s name was changed to its English translation – Lutheran Children’s Friends Society.

The 1950’s and 60’s were times of great growth for the agency. Realizing the psychological strain being placed upon older children seeking to be adopted, the agency opened a residential center to provide counseling for emotional and behavioral concerns for boys aged 6-12. Shortly thereafter counseling for pregnant unwed mothers (and fathers) and potential adoptive families was added. The mental and spiritual health of the children was always the top priority.

In the 1970’s counseling programs were expanded to include adults, pre-marriage planning and family dynamics. LCFS opened 8 satellite offices in smaller cities and rural areas across Wisconsin. This effort was fully embraced by the communities as churches provided space and local residents opened thrift stores to help sustain LCFS’s vital professional services. Four of these stores still remain and continue to support nearly 1/3 of the agency’s annual budget.

In the early 1980’s the agency’s Board of Directors made the decision to once again change the agency’s name to Lutheran Counseling and Family Services of Wisconsin to better reflect its broader scope of care. More services were added, including counseling for returning veterans and their families, addiction counseling and treatment, counseling embedded within schools and adoption services to include newborn, step parent, relative and family adoption counseling and care.

LCFS continues to grow, expand and meet the needs of the time. During the COVID-19 pandemic 2020 – 2022, the agency remained open to provide essential counseling and support. Virtual counseling sessions were added, in school counseling partnered with more schools and addiction counseling adapted to address fentanyl and opioids abuse and the families affected.

LCFS today:

A Century of Care 1896-2022

Watch LCFS’s “A Century of Care 1896-2022” video

A History of Lutheran Childrens Friend Society

A complete history of the Lutheran Children’s Friend Society of Wisconsin in an article by Anthony Brinkman.