A History of Helping Families

In the 1960s, Dr. Karl Menninger established homes for neglected youth in Kansas, Michigan, and Indiana. It was his work that became the basis for The Villages of Indiana, which was first established in 1978 by the Lilly Endowment Initiative.

We opened our first family model group home in April of 1980, located in Bedford, Indiana. The home was built with funds from a Lilly Endowment grant on a parcel of land donated by Dr. John Pless. Since then, we have grown dramatically—from that single group home in Bedford to more than 20 offices located throughout Indiana.

Dr. Menninger believed that abused, neglected, and abandoned children need stable families and loving environments in order to flourish. That is the mission of The Villages, and it’s central to all that we do.

Dr. Karl Menninger


The Villages of Indiana was founded with the help of a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment, as an arm of The Villages of Kansas.


The Villages opens its first group homes in Indiana on land donated by Dr. & Mrs. John Pless.


Two family model group homes are purchased and opened in Indianapolis.

The Villages hosts Indiana’s first Juvenile Judges Symposium in Indiana for Juvenile Judges and service providers.


The Villages Follow-Up Study, authored by The Villages Vice President of Program Administration, Gina Alexander, is published.


The Villages Adoption Program is added and the budget crosses the $1 million mark.


The Villages formally incorporates in Indiana as a separate 501©3 non-profit organization. Dan Fulton was the agency’s first President and CEO.


The Villages Specialized Foster Care Program is initiated, through a Lilly Endowment Grant.


The Villages $2.5 million budget includes expansion of foster care to accommodate 30 children.

The Villages launches its first capital campaign.


The Villages is accredited by the prestigious National Council on Accreditation for Children and Families (COA), one of the first Indiana non-profits to become accredited.


The Villages Independent Living Program launches, a service for preparing foster youth for self-sufficiency.

The Villages initiates family preservation and reunification programs.

Sharon Pierce becomes the agency’s president & CEO.


The Villages Foundation surpasses $300,000 in annual cash and in-kind donations.

The Villages becomes licensed to provide foster care services in Kentucky.

The Villages begins to provide Healthy Families services in Hancock and Lawrence Counties.

The Villages begins Intensive Family Reunification and wraparound services as a provider for the Division of Mental Health and Addiction.

The Villages provides aftercare child and family services.


The Villages expands its Healthy Families services into Brown and Jackson Counties.


Children’s Village Child Development and Education Center, a fully-accredited childcare center opens in Indianapolis.

The Villages adds Healthy Families programs in Decatur, Delaware, and Lake Counties.


Children’s Village Child Development and Education Center opens in Bloomington.

The Villages is selected to become  a member agency of the United Way of Central Indiana.


The Villages Family Connection Network is launched, providing support and resources for grandparents raising grandchildren, and other family members raising their related youth.


The Villages celebrates its 25th anniversary and is now Indiana’s largest child and family services agency, serving more than 1,200 children each day.


The Villages is selected as one of three Indiana pilot sites for the Healthy Families Indiana “Building Strong Families” initiative.


The Villages adds Monroe County to its array of Healthy Families sites.

The Villages is selected by the Indiana Department of Child Services as the lead agency in an innovative, statewide recruitment and retention program to rebuild the Department of Child Services’ foster and adoptive parent infrastructure.


The Villages Annual Budget exceeds $25 million.

The Villages receives the “Angels in Adoption” Congressional Award for excellence in services for adoptive families and children.

The Villages is selected by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption for a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Grant in Northeastern Indiana.

Dr. John and Lois Pless provide leadership to establish the Pless Family Society to promote the vital role of planned giving in The Villages sustainability.

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, a state chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, merges into The Villages.


The Villages receives the Indiana Achievement Award, an award given to recognize the good works of Indiana’s top not-for-profit organizations that excel in innovation, impact, and sustainability.

The Villages adds the Marion County Healthy Families MOM Project to its array of Healthy Families sites.

Tony Dungy, the Indianapolis Colts’ Super Bowl winning Head Coach, becomes a spokesperson for The Villages, emphasizing the vital need for foster and adoptive parents.

With the leadership of Board Chair Kath Postlethwait, The Villages embarks on a $1 million “A Place to Call Home” Campaign to purchase and renovate The Villages Child and Family Service Center in Indianapolis.


Dads Inc., a father engagement program, merges into The Villages.

The Villages receives a second “Angels in Adoption” Congressional Award for excellence in services to adoptive families and children.


A new Indianapolis Administration Building, The Villages Child and Family Service Center, is opened.

Hamilton County is added to The Villages’ array of Healthy Families sites.


Post-adoption services provided by The Villages begins through a Department of Child Services contract, as one of only three selected providers.

The Villages begins providing community partners services in Region 14 through a Department of Child Services contract.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption selects The Villages for a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Grant Expansion in Southwestern Indiana.


The Villages completes certification of staff in the Training in Adoption Competency (TAC) curriculum and offers TAC training to other agencies and interested professional staff.


Embarking on a three-year private fundraising initiative, The Villages begins its “Be Bold: Brighter Futures are Within Our Reach” campaign. Board members Dr. Tim Franson and Eileen Williams, served as Co-Chairs from 2014-2016 and board member David Mills co-chaired the final year in 2017.


In collaboration with Early Learning Indiana, The Villages helps to launch the Early Head Start program at the Indianapolis Children’s Village child care center.

The Villages receives its first $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment as part of the Be Bold Initiative.


The 15th anniversary of the agency’s Family Connection Network, the privately funded program to support grandparents and kinship caregivers who are serving, is celebrated by The Villages.

The Villages reaches the $4 million Bright Futures are Within our Reach goal.


As one of two child and family services agencies to be selected by The Lilly Endowment to receive a transformational $10 million sustainability grant, The Villages is positioned to enjoy financial stability for years to come.