BCBC: A Tale of Two Centuries...1901 to today
In 1901 Isabel Greeley, a kindergarten teacher for the Perkins School, saw the value of early training for blind children. In order to begin work with visually handicapped children in the pre-school and earlier years, she established the Boston Nursery for Blind Babies. By 1909, the need for services had increased to such an extent that interested individuals and families purchased property on the Jamaica Way for a new facility to house blind children. In 1910 the Nursery opened with a residence capability of 25.
Within a couple of decades medical discoveries had greatly reduced the incidence of blindness in newborns. The Nursery was able to admit children from neighboring hospitals, children who had other than visual handicaps but who needed long-term convalescence. It was the Nursery’s first step toward broader services, establishing both their flexibility and their readiness to respond to changing needs in the community.
Meanwhile numerous studies in the medical and educational fields were affirming the value of earliest possible education/treatment for children with any kind of disability – visual or otherwise. In 1934 the staff established a day nursery school program to help children begin work on specific development tasks. By 1945
teachers and social workers at the Nursery had begun to visit the homes of multi-handicapped children to help parents work with their infants.
OUR MISSION STATEMENT
The Boston Center For Blind Children has a longstanding history dating back to 1901 of engaging in charitable activities and programs which in the past provided care and financial assistance to visually impaired children as well as to otherwise disabled children and families. Over the years, the mission of the Center has evolved into an organization that now focuses on allocating grants to similar charitable organizations.
In the 1950's the Nursery admitted several children who were victims of a new eye condition, retrolental fibroplasias, which caused blindness along with other severe handicaps in an alarming number of premature babies. Several of these children were treated by BNBB both in their homes as infants, and later in the residence/treatment program.
Around the same time the Nursery developed a diagnostic service that would not only help to identify specific visual impairments, but a number of medical and psychiatric problems as well. The Nursery changed its name to Boston Center For Blind Children in 1964 and in 1966 became a member of the Child Welfare League of America. The Center was also licensed as a Group Care Facility by the Massachusetts Office For Children, approved as a Private 766 School, and licensed by the Massachusetts Department Of Education.
During the next two decades BCBC continued to treat children with a range of physical, psychological, emotional, and behavioral problems, but particularly those with visual impairments. In October of 1989 the Center amended its constitution in order to provide care and treatment for blind and visually handicapped children and/or children with multiple handicaps. The Center, more commonly known as the Arborway School, was widely recognized as a unique and highly specialized residential, diagnostic, and treatment facility providing programs and services for special needs children with the most severe handicaps.
Dwindling financial support, a steadily declining enrollment, and a shift in contracting policies which favored that students remain in their own public schools or be placed in facilities equipped with a more sophisticated array of services contributed to BCBC closing its doors in September of 1995.
In order to embark on its new mission which no longer included operating a school, BCBC petitioned the Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in October of 1997 to allow the Center “To engage in charitable activities as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, including awarding grants and providing space and support to other charitable organizations that provide care and treatment to blind, visually impaired, or otherwise disabled children as well as other children and families in need, and engaging in programs to provide care and treatment to blind, visually impaired, or otherwise disabled children as well as other children and families in need.”.
2007 And Beyond – The Vision Lives On
As the Center looks forward and plans for the future, its longstanding mission of assisting the less fortunate will continue to hold fast. Whenever a chapter in its history closes and a new one begins, the Boston Center for Blind Children has always been able to link both with a recurring theme: a spirit of giving. The vision of Isabel Greeley will continue to guide BCBC in the fulfillment of its mission.
Since 1997, BCBC functions as a Private Foundation as defined by the Internal Revenue Code. The mission of the Center is to award financial assistance through grants to charitable organizations that provide care, treatment, and services to blind, visually impaired, or otherwise disabled children as well as other children and families in need. Organizations receiving BCBC grants must qualify under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.