Brief history of the organization:

The Early Years

HILLCREST FAMILY SERVICES had its beginning in 1896 when the first woman doctor to practice medicine in Dubuque — Nancy M. Hill, M.D. — became concerned about young unmarried mothers and their babies who were not receiving the proper care. She called together a group of Dubuque women and told them about the unwholesome conditions under which these young mothers lived with their babies. The women responded by forming an organization to help. They elected officers and were incorporated as the Women’s Rescue Society of Dubuque on February 26, 1896. Securing four acres of land with a twelve-room house on Asbury Road, they opened a home for unmarried mothers, naming it the Industrial Training School. Dr. Hill stayed actively involved with the home until 1909 when her advancing age and a lack of funds led to its closing.

Sharing Dr. Hill’s concern, Anna Blanche Cook, a Deaconess at St. Luke’s Methodist Church, took steps to reopen the facility in 1914 as The Deaconess Home and Baby Fold. “The Baby Fold” (as it came to be popularly known) provided institutional care for pre-school children, placed children in foster and adoptive homes, and provided counseling for unmarried mothers. Dr. Hill died on January 8, 1919. Anna Blanche Cook’s death came on February 11, 1923. In 1924, the Articles of Incorporation were revised and the name of the home was changed to The Hillcrest Baby Fold in honor of Dr. Nancy Hill. It was also in 1924 that the Baby Fold began a formal relationship with the (then) Upper Iowa Methodist Conference. In 1928, the Baby Fold became one of nine local organizations named charter recipients of the Dubuque Community Chest (forerunner to today’s United Way Services). In 1953-54, a one story, fireproof building was constructed for the housing care of 46 pre-school children.

The 1960s

In 1960, in recognition of changing trends in child care, the Board of Trustees began taking steps to further upgrade the services offered by the agency. In 1963, institutional care of children was discontinued. Children needing temporary care began to be placed in foster family homes, and infants released for adoption began to be placed directly with adoptive parents upon discharge from the hospital. With additional space now available, the original home — now known as Hillcrest House — was converted into a residence hall for unmarried mothers, with a capacity for twenty women. The name of the agency was changed to Hillcrest Children’s Services in 1963. In 1964, an adoptions office was opened in Cedar Rapids. The decision to launch a “new” agency with special concern for teens began taking form, and in August, 1967, Hillcrest became licensed to care for adolescents. In June, 1968, the agency was named a ministry of the Synod of Iowa (now part of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), with another name change to Hillcrest Services to Children and Youth.

The 1970s

In 1970, Hillcrest opened a family planning and unplanned pregnancy counseling program in Dubuque, which has evolved into the Hillcrest Family Services Clinic. In Cedar Rapids during 1974, Hillcrest opened the first residential treatment facility of its kind in the state to care for adults with serious mental illness. A year later, the agency’s name was changed to Hillcrest Family Services, reflecting the expansion into adult services. The agency expanded into Iowa City in 1976 with the opening of a transitional residential rehabilitation program for women with serious mental illness. Hillcrest begain offering emergency shelter care for youth in 1977. Also that year, Hillcrest was chosen from among 300 other United Methodist child care agencies, hospitals and retirement homes across the United States as “Agency of the Year” by the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. In 1979 a new youth cottage (Peterson Lodge) was constructed on the Hillcrest campus in Dubuque.

The 1980s

Hillcrest expanded its Iowa City programs in 1984 by opening a transitional residential rehabilitation program for both men and women with serious mental illness. The Hillcrest Special Education Program began in 1988 with the opening of an on-campus school designed to serve students in grades 7 - 12 with severe behavioral problems. Over the next decade it would expand to serve elementary, junior high and high school students. Also during 1988, Hillcrest began offering maternal health care, and opened a boarding house for mentally ill adults in Iowa City. Dr. Nancy Hill, founder of Hillcrest, was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 1989.

The 1990s

The Hillcrest-Mercy Maternal Health Center was opened in 1991, the same year that the In-Home Supervision program was begun. In 1991, the Hillcrest Supported Living program for adults with serious mental illness began in Dubuque. Work began on two new youth cottages on the Hillcrest Campus in 1992. Hillcrest’s K-12 Special Education Program expanded into the lower level of these buildings when they were completed in 1993. A third new cottage was added in 1995. In 1994, the agency expanded into vocational training for adults, and instituted a Family Therapy program. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dubuque, Family Empowerment and Family Foster Care were added to the agency’s program mix during 1997. Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services were offered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Dubuque beginning in 1998. Closing out the decade, the agency’s first satellite class room was opened in Maquoketa in response to a request from that school district.

2000 and Beyond

During 2000, a major renovation of Hillcrest House was carried out, and the administrative offices of the agency were relocated to this original agency building. Hillcrest, also assumed the operation of Highland Place in Ottumwa, a residential treatment facility for adults with mental illness.

In 2002, Hillcrest began offering Family Centered Services in Jackson and Clinton Counties and assumed operation of the Washington County Mental Health center. A number of Hillcrest programs (including WIC, Hillcrest Health Clinic, Hillcrest Supported Living, Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Adult Vocational and In-Home Supervision) relocated to a building located at 220 W. 7th Street in the downtown area of Dubuque.

There was a further expansion of the Hillcrest K-12 Education Program during 2000-2002, with two more satellite classrooms being opened in other communities in response to school district requests.

In 2003, the Transitional Housing program for homeless families opened providing for families in transition from homelessness and Faley Reflections house opened providing families in need with a place to stay while visiting their children in Hillcrest's residential program.

In 2006, Hillcrest assumed operation for the Dubuque Mental Health center (formerly known as the Gannon Center) and the Jackson County Mental Health Center.

In 2008, Hillcrest launched is transformation initiative, based upon the 5 promises of America's Promise and a 6th Promise of Providing Opportunities for Spiritual Connections. Hillcrest is committed to Forming Promise People by fulfilling the 6 Promises in the lives of both clients and staff. Hillcrest is also striving to become the premier health and educational ministry in the Midwest.

Today, Hillcrest offers more than 22 different programs in the Midwest.

Hillcrest is currently a mission of the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church (Advanced Special #53) and the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, Presbyterian Church (USA) (ECO-Extra Commitment Opportunity).

Hillcrest is the only child care agency related to the Iowa Conference and the entire six-state region of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies.

Hillcrest is a member of the Dubuque County, Johnson County and Clinton Gateway United Ways, and the Community Chest of Washington County.