Clara McBride Hale, or “Mother Hale” as she was known to the members of her Harlem community, was a pioneer in self-help efforts in poor neighborhoods and came to symbolize the untapped potential of disadvantaged groups taking care of their own. Founded in 1969 and incorporated in 1972, Hale House grew out of Mother Hale’s commitment to “nurture babies born into dire circumstances” (Bruce Lambert, New York Times, 1992). When Hale House began, it was the first institution of its kind in the nation to house and care for infants born to mothers who were addicted to drugs. Over the years, hundreds of children have found sanctuary in Mother Hale’s brownstone, located in the heart of Harlem.
The Hale House story begins, however, long before 1972. Mother Hale began providing day care services for her neighbors’ children for two dollars a week after her husband died in the 1940’s, leaving her a single parent of two small children. This marked the initiation of Mother Hale’s lifelong service of opening her home to children.
Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, while continuing to provide day care to neighborhood children, Mother Hale began to provide foster care, and what is known today as respite care, to children and families in need. She helped find permanent homes for homeless children and guided parents at critical junctures in their lives. Mother Hale was known in the community as a philanthropist, childcare worker and social activist.
In 1969, Mother Hale gave shelter to an infant whose mother could no longer care for her because of the mother’s addiction to heroin. This woman represented countless others who were suffering from the drug epidemic that swept through cities around the country in the 1970’s. This was the beginning of a new era in an extraordinary legacy of caring.
Mother Hale founded Hale House to care for babies affected by drugs and illness, or babies whose mothers or families were unable to care for them. With the help of a local politician, Mother Hale was able to secure a brownstone from the city and, after renovation, the house on 122nd Street became the new Hale House. In 1972, the non-profit organization was incorporated as the “Hale House Center for the Promotion of Human Potential, Inc.” Hale House quickly became known as the first institution to cast a spotlight on the children who were the most innocent victims of the drug crisis.
With each decade, Hale House has responded to the challenges that struggling families have had to endure due to the crippling effects of poverty. During the 1970’s, the scope of work initiated by Hale House in 1969 expanded to include services for at-risk children and their families. In the 1980’s, as the urban drug problem gave way to the AIDS crisis, Hale House responded by taking in children who had lost their parents to the disease or who were themselves born infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. America’s drug problem spawned a grim new reality throughout the nation in the 1990s—an increase in the number of incarcerated women left unable to care for their children. Today, Hale House also cares for children of women in prison, many who are born while their mothers are incarcerated.
When Mother Hale died in 1992, her daughter, Dr. Lorraine Hale, became the agency’s President and CEO. Under her leadership, Hale House experienced unparalleled growth. The number of children in residence increased, and Hale House augmented its property holdings. Throughout her three decades of service to Hale House, Lorraine Hale promoted innovative programs and received numerous awards and local recognition. In May of 2001, however, Dr. Lorraine Hale’s association with Hale House came to an end as a result of an investigation by the New York State Attorney General. A thorough appraisal of the health and finances of Hale House was conducted by the Attorney General in 2001; and with his ongoing supervision, support and approval, the organization is proudly continuing—and expanding— its work for children and families in need.
Today, Hale House, with a new leadership team in place, continues to be an important part of the Harlem community, providing a warm, loving, nurturing home for infants and young children in need.
Hale House Center, Inc. 152 West 122nd Street New York, NY 10027
tel:212.663.0700 fax:212.749.2888 email:[email protected]