ONE CHILD AT A TIME
Wide Horizons For Children has helped place close to 13,000 children from nearly 60 countries into adoptive families and donated more than $15 million in aid to improve the welfare of children, milestones we never could have imagined possible from our humble beginnings in the early 1970s. Our roots as a child welfare agency can be traced to the extraordinary efforts of a handful of compassionate individuals gathered around a kitchen table nearly 40 years ago.
It all began in the fall of 1972, when Don and Marilyn Scott, a Massachusetts couple who had worked in Vietnam for a relief organization called Project Concern, founded My Friend’s House (MFH). MFH hoped to establish a nutrition center in war-torn Vietnam to help starving and abandoned children.
Tom and Diane Palmeri, colleagues of the Scotts at Project Concern, volunteered to set up and run the nutrition center. They began by feeding and caring for a few infants in their apartment in Saigon in the fall of 1973. The following year, the Palmeris moved to a two-story private home, where they were ultimately able to serve 50 severely malnourished children. They subsequently established a four-story facility to serve another 50 children.
In addition, the couple would go to extraordinary lengths to improve deplorable living conditions and medical care for children languishing in Vietnamese orphanages. They went on to adopt two special needs children, and asked the Scotts to find families in the US who would adopt other orphans, many of them with special needs. Read more about their incredible story.
The Palmeris left Vietnam in 1975 on one of the last commercial flights out before the fall of Saigon. MFH would be no more – but not until administrator Faith Pham had reunited every child with his or her family, or placed those who were orphaned or abandoned into foster homes.
On April 25, 1975, International Adoptions (IAI) was created and licensed to provide adoption services in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Our focus expanded to include humanitarian aid for children in El Salvador and an adoption program for orphaned children in India. By year’s end we had placed 25 children from 8 countries into loving homes.
We went on to experience tremendous growth, opening new adoption programs, expanding child welfare efforts and aid around the world, establishing regional offices in seven states across the Northeast and relocating from a church basement in Auburndale to new headquarters in Waltham.
Vicki Peterson, who joined the agency in 1979 and served as head of international programs, was named Executive Director in 1989. That year we changed our name to Wide Horizons For Children (WHFC) to better reflect expanding efforts in aid, education, post-adoption support, counseling and cultural events for families.
In countless ways, Vicki would come to define WHFC with families, donors and the adoption community nationwide. Vicki was responsible for our emergence as one of the world’s leading agencies. She worked tirelessly on behalf of orphaned, abandoned and relinquished children, establishing a set of child-focused clinical policies that helped set the ethical standard in adoption. Under her leadership, WHFC brought thousands of children home to loving families while maintaining an unwavering commitment to delivering humanitarian aid to others in desperate need. She stepped down from day-to-day operations in 2006, retiring five years later after more than 30 years of devoted service to disadvantaged children.
Peter Leppanen was named WHFC President and CEO in 2006. Under his leadership, WHFC expanded its international aid efforts and introduced new adoption programs in Africa, Taiwan and Costa Rica. In August 2012, he was succeeded by Janice Hoffman. Janice, who joined WHFC in 1999, had been serving as Chief Operating Officer for the agency.
We are proud of our legacy and remain steadfast in our mission to serve the needs of the impoverished and vulnerable children around the world - one child at a time.