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Our History

A tale of three cities  . . . and one community of caring.

The history of Northern Rivers Family of Services parallels the history of caring for children and families throughout the Capital Region and beyond. Our roots are in the former agencies known as Parsons Child & Family Center and Northeast Parent & Child Society—agencies that were each created from a need to help children and continued to evolve to meet that need.

In 1829 Orissa Healey and Eliza Wilcox founded the Ladies Orphan Society, and within a year the renamed Society for the Relief of Orphan and Destitute Children in the City of Albany was caring for 130 children. By the early 1890s, some 600 children lived and learned at what was then known as the Albany Orphan Asylum.

Meanwhile, in 1888 a group of concerned women in Schenectady formed The Home for Destitute Children, which later became The Children’s Home of Schenectady. The early 1900s saw the formation of a county Humane Society to protect and care for needy families not served by the Children’s Home.

Back in Albany, the Orphan Asylum became known as the Albany Home for Children and evolved to incorporate modern social work, cottage-style residential living, therapeutic services and additional programs to meet the changing needs of the community. In 1976 the Home became known as Parsons Child and Family Center, continuing to expand its geographic and programmatic reach wherever the need arose.

In Schenectady the Children’s Home and Humane Society each expanded their programs to better aid those dealing with abuse, neglect and other barriers to success. In 1983 the agencies came together to form Northeast Parent & Child Society and grew their services to meet the challenges of children, families, and communities.

In the name of providing even better services to the community, 2012 saw these two great organizations, one in Albany and one in Schenectady, officially affiliate to stand together as Northern Rivers Family of Services. In 2019, Northern Rivers’ continuing drive to provide even better care to respond to needs added Unlimited Potential in Saratoga Springs to their family of services.

Founded in 1979, Unlimited Potential provides vocational rehabilitation and supportive services to individuals in recovery after experiencing a mental illness. Their production center provides bulk mailing, fulfillment, and assembly services for area businesses, and their woodshop produces picnic tables, Adirondack chairs, and other items for the public and clients, including Saratoga Race Course, while helping clients build skills and confidence.

The proud traditions of Parsons, Northeast, and Unlimited Potential continue under a shared set of core principles and a universal commitment to serving children and families, while Northern Rivers provides the guidance and leadership to help communities grow.

Today, the united workforce of Northern Rivers, Parsons, Northeast, and Unlimited Potential represents the dedication of those who came before, an unmatched level of talent and drive, and the vision needed to change the way services are delivered to help build a better world.

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