To meet the changing needs of children and families, the services and programs of Holy Family Institute are constantly evolving.

Our agency was founded in 1900, when three orphaned children were brought to the Sister’s summer home in Emsworth. From there, the organization accepted many more children who needed care, and in 1931 the organization’s name changed from  “Orphan Asylum of the Holy Family” to “Holy Family Institute”.   The name change occurred to reflect HFI’s shift  from being a true orphanage to a small-group living facility serving both orphans and other children in need.

Through the years, Holy Family Institute has developed a wide range of programs to help children and families in their communities. Today, the majority of our services include educating behaviorally challenged children, counseling and helping families to function as a healthy unit in their homes, preparing youth and young adults for their future through workforce development, offering drug and alcohol addiction counseling to children and youth, and making outpatient mental health counseling available to families and children who are functioning in the community but need specialized help.

Video: Celebrating 100 Years (2000)



1898: The original ‘Emsworth house’ is purchased as a summer retreat for the Sisters of Holy Family of Nazareth.


1900: Three orphaned children are brought to the summer home in Emsworth after their Polish immigrant parents died in an accidental fire.

1904: With ever-growing needs and responsibilities to take care of children, Orphan Asylum of the Holy Family is formally incorporated with a fully governing board.

1915: Father Francis Retka appointed Executive Director. During his tenure, the orphanage is modernized and expanded with the addition of a swimming pool, gymnasium, chapel, hospital and garage.

1928: Holy Family Institute is among the first to join the Welfare Fund, now United Way.

1931: The board votes to change the name from Orphan Asylum of the Holy Family to Holy Family Institute, due to the shift from being a true orphanage to a small-group living facility serving both orphans and other children in need.

1941: 160 boys from Holy Family are called to serve in World War II. In subsequent years, young men also served in Korea and Vietnam.

1946: 45 Polish war refugee children find sanctuary at Holy Family. Music and sports are prominent activities in the lives of the children.

1950: Holy Family celebrates its Golden Jubilee. By now 4,347 children have been harbored by the Institute. Holy Family honors 159 of its alumni as veterans of World War II, out of which 7 died.

1966: Reverend Raymond Wojtkiewicz is appointed Executive Director. St. Paul’s Orphanage merges with Holy Family. Holy Family initiates therapeutic group care for children with social and emotional needs.

1975: The transitional group home opens for teenagers to prepare them for independent living.

1979: The Independent Living Program expands and includes apartments for adolescents in North Hills, Coraopolis and Montour.

1980: Special Education program is re-established with the passage of the Act 30 Education Bill.

1981: The Intensive Treatment program is initiated to provide more specialized therapeutic care.

1988: Sister Linda Yankoski is appointed Executive Director. The Helping Families in Crisis outreach program is fully implemented, serving 400-500 families annually in 3 inner city offices and Armstrong County.

1991: The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation designates Holy Family Institute as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Courage House in honor of the late Arthur J Rooney, Sr.

1992: An endowment fund is established to organize special events like the Drive for HFI Golf Classic.

1993: Special and Alternative Education is provided to area school districts through a day school in Emsworth. The program would eventually serve over 400 commuter students in Emsworth, McKeesport and Munhall.

1999: Holy Family collaborates with Duquesne Light to provide energy assistance and support programs through Universal Services (CAP, CARES) to low and limited income households.


2000: Holy Family enters in to a management agreement with St. Mary’s Villa for Children and Families. Due diligence begins regarding possible acquisition. Drug & Alcohol provisional license is approved and the SHORES program begins.

2001: St. Mary’s Villa for Children and Families merges with Holy Family Institute. Major reorganization of Holy Family Institute takes place, a new staff leadership structure is implemented, and Sister Linda Yankoski is named as the President. Transition to Success program for emancipated youth is introduced to provide services through college or vocational technical program.

2002: St. Mary’s in Ambler establishes Act 30 School for residential students.

2004: An alternative and special education program is establishes in Phoenixville, PA. Holy Family receives full certification from the Council on Accreditation for Children and Families.

2005: The French Creek Learning Center is established.

2006: Holy Family establishes Family-Focused Solution Based Services. Commits to implement the Psycho-educational Treatment Model (PEM) developed by Boystown in Omaha, Nebraska.

2007: St. Mary’s Villa for Children and Families begins accepting truant population.

2008: Holy Family Institute establishes a violence prevention program using the evidence-based model called SNAP® (Stop Now and Plan) for boys ages 6-12 years. Adopts Sanctuary Model® to help address trauma and support healing.

2009: Holy Family establishes career and workforce development program for at-risk youths utilizing Employer Advisory Council. Establishes FitChoice Partnership, supported by The Highmark Foundation through Highmark Healthy High 5.

2010: Develops unaccompanied minors’ program for orphan children from Haiti.

2011: HFI launches Holy Family International College Preparatory Program, a boarding and support service for international youth seeking education in the United States, contributing to the mission and financial stability of the organization. Shifts residential program to In-Community Stabilization to give youth and their families better access to the resources they need to establish personal responsibility and stability. SNAP® program expands to include both boys and girls.