The local chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union founded the Orphan's Home Association of St. Joseph County. The home provided temporary shelter to orphaned or unwanted children while suitable permanent homes were being sought for them. The Orphan's Home provided care for children who arrived from cities on the East Coast on "orphan trains." During its first 18 months, the home served more than 80 children.
In 1884, the home became part of a state network and became known as the Northern Indiana Orphans Home, serving six counties in northern Indiana.
The home reorganized again as the Children's Aid Society of Indiana. Through generous donations, the Society was able to purchase 16 acres of land at the corner of Lincoln Way and Logan streets in Mishawaka. More than a century later, 12 acres of this original site remain the home of Family & Children's Center's administrative offices and residential programs for children.
The second half of the 20th century brought more organizational changes and the first use of the Family & Children's Center name. In 1956, the Children's Aid Society merged with Family Services of St. Joseph County and two years later, in 1958, adopted the name Family & Children's Center, Inc.
In the early 1960s, out-of-home care for children was taking on a different character. More and more children were being placed with Family & Children's Center as a result of behavior and emotional problems.
In the early 1970s, Family & Children's Center's focus evolved from the custodial care of previous decades to more specialized casework and treatment within a continuum of care philosophy.
The year 1979 also brought one of Family & Children's Center's greatest challenges. In September of that year, fire destroyed the main building, a local landmark remembered by area residents to this day. Undaunted, the board, leadership and staff of Family & Children's Center planned, financed and built a new central services building on the site, which today continues to serve as Family & Children's Center's headquarters.
Family & Children's Center's present structure as an affiliation of nonprofit organizations began taking shape in the 1980s. In 1987, Family & Children's Center reorganized into separate corporations, with Family & Children's Center Inc. serving as the parent organization.