Founded in 1888 by the women of Charlotte's First and Second Presbyterian Churches, Alexander Youth Network began on a carriage ride through Charlotte—then a town of 7,000. The devastation and poverty of the Reconstruction Era led the women on that trip to start a rescue mission for women and children. In August 1894, R.B. Alexander, a farmer and grocer devoted to the welfare of children, donated a home located at McDowell and Third Streets. The Alexander Children’s Home served as a haven for poverty-stricken and displaced women and orphaned children for several decades.
As government-sponsored social services improved after World War II, the need for custodial care programs for orphans began to wane. At the same time, programs for children with special needs were still undeveloped. In 1946, Alexander, acting on the recommendations from the Child Welfare League of America, altered its mission to focus on children suffering from emotional disturbance and mental illness. The following year, Alexander employed its first psychiatric social worker to organize and direct a treatment program for seriously disturbed children.
In 1961, Alexander Children’s Home relocated to a new campus-like facility built on a former dairy farm donated by longtime friend of the agency, Edward Turner Garsed. Over time, the campus expanded to meet the changing needs of the children of the state. A school for special needs children was developed and later a child development center added.
In the late 1990s, Alexander began expanding its program offerings to provide a more comprehensive approach to treatment. A day treatment/year-round school program was added, group homes were developed to facilitate moving children out of campus residential programs and back into the community.
In more recent years, Alexander has continued to pursue its vision of providing a full array of behavioral healthcare services to children from 5 to 18, and delivering more treatment services to them in the community and in the home. In the summer of 2003 Alexander merged with YouthNetwork, a Charlotte-based agency that brought to Alexander additional services for older children, several new community-based programs, and a shelter for runaways and children in crisis, known by the community as The Relatives. Alexander continues to operate YouthNetwork as a wholly-owned subsidiary, and has taken on the name Alexander Youth Network as the overall corporate name for the agency.