Erection of the Marion County Children’s Home was begun in 1900. The tract of land on which it stood consists of 60 acres. The main building was 75 feet by 120 feet in dimension, with a rear wing 60 feet square for chapel and other uses. The main structure was 2 1/2 stories high above a 10 foot basement. It had, at its completion in 1901, 52 rooms to accommodate 125 children. Some internal rearrangement of rooms was made over the years. Constructed of Findlay pressed brick, its basement and trimming were of Marion County blue limestone. The original cost of the land and building was $60,000.00.
The Tract was purchased and the building was erected by Mr. Benjamin Waddell, at his private expense, then presented to the county. Prior, there was no separate place for orphaned and abandoned children. No refuge for those whose parents were unable or unwilling to provide suitable care. Some, if old enough, were placed with local residents. Others were maintained at the county Infirmary. Mr. Waddell’s gift of a home exclusively for children was indeed, by the standards of that day, an enlightened one.
Throughout the years, philosophies regarding how best to serve children began to change and the years took their toll on the structure of the old Children’s Home. In 1968, the cottages and office building currently standing on agency grounds were constructed and the old building was then demolished.
At the new Waddell Village built in 1968, each of the three cottages housed 6 boys, 6 girls, and a married couple who served as Aparents. The administration building provided space for offices and records. It also contained a central dining room for noon and evening meals, and a temporary receiving center. A superintendents residence and a combined garage and maintenance building were also built. A multipurpose room was added in 1986.
In the mid to late 1980s, litigation and changes in federal and state laws seriously restricted the age and number of children that could live in child residential care facilities and limited funding for facilities with more than 24 children. The opening of the new Marion County Juvenile Detention Center also decreased the number of children living at the Village. Over the next several years, more and more children were placed directly into foster family homes. The emphasis of child protective services shifted from removing and caring for children in residential facilities to providing more home-based services in order to keep children safely in their homes.
By 1987, two of the three residential cottages at Waddell Village were closed, and the third cottage was being run as a group home serving no more than ten children. One cottage was made into a visitation center where children in substitute care could spend safe, supervised time with their birth parents. The other was renovated for administrative space.
Today, all children in the custody of Marion County Children Services live in licensed foster homes, child residential centers, or with relatives or kin.