PARMADALE FAMILY SERVICES, dedicated as PARMADALE CHILDREN'S VILLAGE OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL on 27 Sept. 1925, pioneered the cottage residential plan in Catholic children's homes. Parmadale began as ST. VINCENT’S ORPHAN ASYLUM  established by the Cleveland Catholic Diocese in 1853 and staffed by the SISTERS OF CHARITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE.  Like other ORPHANAGES, St. Vincent’s sheltered the children of co-religionists whose parents could not support them because of illness, death or desertion of a spouse, or inadequate employment.  Children received food, shelter, clothing, some secular education, and training in the Catholic faith.  The Cleveland Catholic Diocese feared that indigent Catholic children might fall victim to the Protestant proselytizing of the public poorhouse or the Protestant Orphan Asylum.  The nuns acted as nurses, surrogate mothers, teachers, housekeepers, religious role models, and fund-raisers. St. Vincent’s, like the other Catholic social service institutions, was wholly dependent on private funds – gifts from philanthropists, special collections at local churches, orphans’ fairs, and the Cleveland Welfare Federation.

The CATHOLIC CHARITIES CORPORATION raised the funds for the new Parmadale Children’s Village at 6753 State Rd., PARMA.  Its cottages housed the boys from St. Vincent’s and from St. Anthony's Home for Boys & Young Men. The orphanage’s new name and the transfer of its children from the large congregate facility on Cleveland’s west side to the new cottages were intended to suggest that this was no longer an asylum but a home for children.

During the 1930s, Parmadale, like the other orphanages, struggled to survive, full of children whose families had been devastated by the Depression.  Public funds came to the rescue. The Cuyahoga County Child Welfare Bureau (CUYAHOGA COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES) assumed responsibility for many dependent children.  New Deal programs – old age and unemployment insurance and Aid to Dependent Children (later Aid to Families of Dependent Children) - provided some income stability to families who might otherwise have relied on orphanages.  

In 1947 Bp. EDWARD FRANCIS HOBAN dedicated additional cottages to accommodate girls from ST. JOSEPH'S ORPHANAGE. A convent and administration building were added in 1952;  Parmadale accepted the children from HOLY FAMILY HOME in 1952 and in 1953, the small children from St. Edward’s orphanage.

Prodded by the National Conference of Catholic Charities, the organization responsible for establishing professional social work standards for Catholic social service institutions, Parmadale made the slow transition in the 1960s from a home for dependent children to a home for children with emotional or behavioral problems.  The transition was complicated by the fact that the institution had always been staffed by unpaid nuns, not the child-care professionals who would now be required.  The number of nuns declined during the 1960s and 1970s, as did the number of children in the facility. The admission of adolescent girls from Carmelita Hall in 1974 and adolescent boys from St. Anthony’s Hall in 1975 briefly stabilized the institution’s population. In the 1980s, as the move to deinstitutionalize all populations gained momentum, Parmadale, now almost entirely dependent on public funding, developed a wide range of on- and off-site programs in addition to its residential treatment program.  Collectively, these were called Parmadale Family Services.

In 2014, in the wake of sexual misconduct by its staff and a dwindling number of placements by the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, Catholic Charities closed Parmadale’s residential treatment program.  The buildings of the old orphanage were demolished in 2018; the grounds were slated to become part of WEST CREEK RESERVATION of the CLEVELAND METROPARKS.

Updated by Marian J. Morton

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Hearns, Jack T., Jr. Parmadale: A Unique Village for Children and Young Adults (pamphlet).

Morton, Marian J.  “The Transformation of Catholic Orphanages: Cleveland, 1851-1996" The Catholic Historical Review. January 2002.

Rider, George. Parmadale.


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