Imagine a lively port town on the edge of Frontier America, bustling with people of all walks of life trying to pave a new path forward for themselves and their families. This is where the story of CHNK Behavioral Health starts. Positioned on the southern shores of the mighty Ohio river, across from the booming new metropolis of Cincinnati, the city of Covington had its fair share of prosperity. Among those early pioneers, a great man answered the call to help his community and to give back to the place and to the people that contributed to his success. He laid the groundwork for what would become 140+ years of helping the Northern Kentucky community.
2015 to Today
The Evolution Continues
Today, we are better known as CHNK Behavioral Health. As community needs have evolved, we have embraced our value of growth and change to evolve with the community. In short, times have changed and so have we. CHNK now provides trauma-informed mental health and addiction treatment services to thousands of children, adolescents, adults, and families each year.
1990 to 2015
New Name, New Mission
In 1990, we changed our name to Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky (CHNK). In addition to providing residential care for youth in state custody, we also established programs specializing in foster care, assisted families in the adoption process, provided after-school care for at-risk children, and provided professional assistance for families in crisis. Because of this expansion of services and greater impact on the community at large, a fresh name and brand were needed.
1945 to 1990
Changing Times, Changing Needs
After World War II, as medical advances contributed to lower mortality rates nationwide, there were very few true orphans. In addition, new federal programs like Social Security provided unemployment benefits so the loss of a job didn’t necessarily mean financial ruin for a family. Foster care and adoption services also became more prevalent. So, by the close of the 1970s, we transitioned from operating as a traditional orphanage to providing a residential treatment program for youth in the custody of the Commonwealth of Kentucky due to abuse, neglect, or other high-risk situations in their families of origin.
1925 to 1945
Moving On Up
The Home outgrew its first building by the early years of the 20th century, but World War I delayed planning for a new facility. In May 1925, the Home conducted a massive 10-day fundraising campaign that raised over $225,000 for a new building. Designed by the noted architectural firm of Hannaford and Sons, the new Colonial Revival facility was situated on 26 acres adjoining Covington’s hilltop Devou Park, with sweeping views of the Ohio River and the City of Cincinnati. In 1935 a new Junior Board, composed of civic-minded women, was established to assist with fundraising. In that same year, the Junior Board began its successful Charity Ball, which has been held annually ever since, with the exception of 1937— the year of the devastating Ohio River flood.
1880s to 1925
Covington Protestant Children’s Home is Born
From our beginnings as the CPCH, we depended upon the generosity of the wider community for financial sustainability. In fact, the first donation to the home was made by four young girls who held a neighborhood fair and raised $10. Throughout the first few decades of our existence, CPCH’s annual reports contained detailed records of all donations, ranging from the monetary gifts of wealthy philanthropists to the chickens and vegetables that working class people brought to our doors. (Many of these records have been digitalized for us by the Kenton County Public Library and are available to browse online!)
Called to Action
A devout Methodist, Amos practiced works of charity and philanthropy throughout the region. Emotionally moved by the needs of poor children who lived in shantyboats along the rivers, Shinkle began to work for the establishment of an institution, whose 1880 charter stated, would care “for the friendless, homeless, unprotected children or orphans.” The Covington Protestant Children’s Home (CPCH), which opened in 1882, was the result of his vision and generosity. Designed by the noted architect Samuel Hannaford, the CPCH at 14th and Madison Avenue was a state-of-the-art facility. Shinkle spared no expense in making certain that the facility was inviting, that the furnishings were up-to-date, and that the care provided was “kind and humane.”
Our story begins with Amos Shinkle (1818-1892), a self-made man who worked his way up from being a flatboat cook on the Ohio River to building and owning steamboats. In the 1840s, he moved to Covington, KY and became a successful businessman and civic leader. Shinkle is perhaps remembered best as President of the Covington and Cincinnati Bridge Company that built this area’s premier symbol—the Suspension Bridge (1867)—which Shinkle himself financed in part.