From Deep Roots, We Rise Up to Meet Families Where They are Today

Our organization was founded on a very specific calling to care for the children who lost their parents to the cholera epidemic. As often happens, the needs of the community changed with the times, and we stepped up to meet children – and, eventually families and communities – wherever they needed help and healing.

Though there are nearly two centuries between us, and best practices have certainly changed with the times, we can relate to the concerned citizens who sprang into action for the welfare of children in 1850. We still share a deep concern for Milwaukee’s children and families, and our mission has always been rooted in their well-being.

Deep Roots and Expansive Care

As our work evolved and our interventions aligned with current best practices, we also continued to innovate. We grew, we changed and we adapted.

Orphanage Life to Residential Treatment for Boys (1850-1980)

Originally founded as two Milwaukee orphanages, Milwaukee Orphan’s Asylum (later Lakeside) and St. Aemilian’s Orphan Asylum, the organizations were a response to care for the city’s growing orphan population due to the cholera epidemic. As the number of orphans decreased, we reimagined our services to focus on residential care for boys. The first time our organization significantly reimagined how to best care for kids, we introduced therapeutic treatment into the residential care setting. After more than a century of providing shelter and fulfilling basic needs of children, a whole-child model took hold moving away from custodial care to therapeutic treatment for boys with emotional and mental health challenges.  

Whole-family, Community-based Care (1980-Present)

Recognizing the need to provide care in the community, where children and families came from and returned to, and to prevent family crisis, the newly-merged organization St. Aemilian-Lakeside expanded its service array to include community-based services including mental health care, in-home services for families, foster care, and care management.  Soon, the work evolved from caring for kids to caring for the well-being of entire families. In 2017, SaintA closed its residential units as part of its commitment to caring for kids and families in community settings. 

Trauma Informed Care (2007-Present) 

Perhaps the most significant innovation came when the organization began practicing Trauma Informed Care to help people heal from childhood adversity. Shortly thereafter, it became clear we couldn’t successfully mitigate and heal trauma unless we addressed historical trauma. Thus, began our equity and diversity work. A commitment to transform child- and family-serving systems has led us to bring our model to over 60,000 professionals through training and consulting services.

A Future Rooted in Innovation 

As we approach two centuries as an evolving human-services agency, we are proud of our longevity, but do not rest on our laurels. As long as children, families and the community need healing, we will continue to rise up to meet those needs. In 2020, on our 170th anniversary, SaintA kicked off a multi-year process to transform our Capitol Drive Campus into a community anchor institution.  To reflect our evolution and commitment to wellness, we announced our new name in 2022 – Wellpoint Care Network.