About The William George Agency for Children’s Services
We are committed to providing a safe and caring residential environment supported by proven, therapeutic, clinical and medical care for at-risk youth.
Recognized as among the best in offering innovative, highly regarded programs to serve high need, specialized populations who have historically been underserved.
To care first about young people while helping them develop the attitudes, social skills, and self-direction enabling them to become contributing members of the community. To engage, respect, empower, and partner with families to support their efforts in successful reunification and family preservation.
William George, founder of the George Junior Republic, was born on a farm in West Dryden, New York. When he was fourteen, he and his parents moved to New York City. As he grew older his parents wanted him to attend college, but he rebelled and went into business for himself.
In the late 1800’s, NYC conditions were cramped and unhealthy. Mr. George became concerned with the social conditions of the great city. He walked the slums of New York and talked with the boys in the streets. He organized the boys into club and mission houses, and also organized clubs for girls. Mr. George believed that if young people could live in a free, wholesome atmosphere, they could use their energies constructively and become adults with positive futures.
Mr. George was compelled to bring boys out to his farm in Dryden when he read an article in the April, 1890 issue of Evening World. This article told of a little boy in the New York slums who saw an orange peel and chased it down the street thinking it was a flower. Mr. George wanted this boy and others to see real flowers and real living things.
The New York Herald Tribune Fresh Air Fund provided funds for the transportation of fifty children (40 boys and 10 girls) to have a summer vacation with Mr. George. He had no money but nearby farmers provided a place to live and food for the youths. For two weeks the youths lived in a camp of tents in Freeville, New York. Mr. George continued the camping program for three consecutive summers with more and more campers, support from people in Cortland and Elmira, and growing problems.
By the end of the third summer, Mr. George was very disturbed to see the young people taking food, clothing and luxuries, but never a thought of giving back. They were taking everything they received for granted, and he needed a solution. He decided they needed to learn how to earn their own living, and he developed the motto “Nothing Without Labor”. This was the first motto developed for the Republic and it is still in use today. The first name given to the G.J.R. was the Freeville Fresh Air Camp.
The summer of 1894 was radically different. No money was used for sports; instead it was used for picks and shovels. Mr. George told the citizens to build a road in front of the Fresh Air Camp. He said they would learn responsibility and feel proud. The youths were happy and energetic at work, but only for a few days. Then, a shipment of clothing came in and instead of giving the clothing out, Mr. George suggested they work for it. Finally, one small boy worked for his clothing and soon others followed suit. A change was noted. The young people took far better care of the clothing they earned compared to those they received for nothing. Mr. George was proud.
Mr. George wrote up rules for his community to follow, but they were not followed. Then one day some of the hard-earned clothing was stolen. The owners of the clothing went to Mr. George and he told them to take matters into their own hands. The youths found the thieves and among themselves conducted a trial. This idea has evolved through the years to the idea of citizen “self-government”; today residents are represented by our Campus Council as part of our Youth Leadership Program.
On July 10, 1895, the founding date of the G.J.R., five boys out of two hundred campers decided to stay through the winter. This was the beginning of what we have today: a therapeutic community of youths, growing and maturing together responsibly.
The George Junior Republic continued to evolve over many years. There were good times and bad. The one constant was providing opportunities for youth to return to their home communities as contributing members.
In 2005 the George Junior Republic changed its name to The William George Agency for Children’s Services. The new name, it is felt, gives society at large a greater understanding of the work we do.
Today’s residential programs preserve the Junior Republic’s ideals of general fitness, social development and well-roundedness, in which responsibility is treated more as an opportunity than a burden – while providing more focused clinical oversight and treatment, and a strong educational emphasis.
Although the Agency has seen many programmatic changes over the years as the needs of children have evolved, one thing has never changed, namely the enduring efforts of caring adults working to improve the lives of disadvantaged, troubled youth. Expansion in the service of providing additional treatment opportunities to children in need has been an Agency priority since the early 1990’s. The Agency’s Board of Directors, in concert with our senior leadership team, have for the last 20 years made a concerted effort to serve high-risk, high-need populations who have historically been underserved in New York State. This expansion has taken the form of ten newly constructed, state of the art, residential homes, and many new and innovative programs.
In 1996 when Barber Cottage opened, The William George Agency became the first private residential treatment center in New York State to be licensed to provide sex offender specific treatment to adolescent males who have engaged in sexually abusive behavior. We are recognized as a leader in the field of adolescent Sexually Harmful Behavior treatment.
In July 2000, The William George Agency became one of only three private residential agencies in the state to open an OASAS licensed outpatient chemical dependency treatment clinic at VanClef Cottage serving the needs of our residential population. It has been long recognized that the rate of diagnosable alcohol and/or substance abuse among adolescents entering residential treatment is at least 60%, and for many youngsters, it represents a primary treatment issue. VanClef currently serves up to 100 residents at any given time, and has consistently received superior performance reviews during OASAS program audits.
The fall of 2005 marked the opening of our DD and ID-ED programs for youth with both intellectual disabilities and serious emotional, psychiatric disturbance. Previously, many of these youth were mixed in with youth with normal cognitive functioning, and were often exploited or isolated. Our DD and ID/ED programs offers many specialized services and supports designed to improve their adaptive daily living skills, as well as their capacity to function independently.
In November, 2011, we opened the Seidell Youth Centered Recovery Program for adolescent males who are dually diagnosed with alcohol and/or substance dependence and a co-occurring mental health disorder. Most of the young men served in this program have a history of failed inpatient treatment experiences in OASAS licensed short-term residential programs as a result of their pattern of acting out behavior. The structure of our residential program is designed to offer these young men a safe, stable, and predictable living environment which will support and encourage their investment in treatment while our OASAS licensed clinic provides intensive chemical dependency services. Since the program’s inception on November 1, 2011 through the present date, the utilization rate for this program has been 94%. In the spring of 2014, we added six beds to our Youth Centered Recovery Program.
In December, 2011, we opened our Hard to Place Girl’s program. The Agency had not served adolescent females in almost twenty years, but in response to overwhelming and persistent consumer demand, we made the decision to serve girls with a history of trauma and abuse. The program has been highly utilized and continues to be in great demand.
In the winter of 2014, we developed the Hard to Place Intermediate Care program for boys who clinically no longer require an HTP level of care but whose social skill deficits and emotional dysregulation impede their ability to successfully negotiate a more normalized peer environment. As such, it represents a transitional program between Hard to Place and discharge to the community.
In October of 2018, Raise the Age (RTA) Legislation became effective which raised the age of criminal responsibility to 17-years-old and on October 1, 2019, the age of criminal responsibility was raised to 18 years of age. This legislation ensures that young people in New York who commit non-violent felonies receive the intervention and evidence-based treatment they need. The William George Agency was one of 13 agencies in New York State selected to provide services to this specialized population, and is currently licensed for 16 RTA beds.
Between 1993 and 2019, the Agency has grown from approximately 45 beds to our present licensed capacity of 193 beds as part of our on-going commitment to serve at-risk youth in New York State.
The chapel was designed by Auburn, NY native Julius Schweinfurth and built in 1901. It was renovated in 1995 and is used by local congregations and the community at large for worship, special events and weddings.
If you’d like to use the Christ Chapel for your next event please contact:
*Due to upcoming construction, we are not booking any events for 2023/24 at this time.
James Purcell Adventure Based Counseling Ropes Course
The Ropes Course is a series of activities and challenges on both low and high elements designed to encourage teamwork and personal confidence. Groups learn skills such as cooperation, problem solving, leadership, goal setting and trust while trained instructors facilitate the activities.
If you’d like to hear about the different programming packages we offer please contact:
Office of Children and Family Services
Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services
New York State Education Department