Story of Sweetser

Sweetser’s roots in residential care for children date back to 1828. The Sweetser we know today evolved from the joining of four Maine orphanages: The Children’s Home of Portland (formerly the Female Orphan Asylum), the Belfast-based Children’s Aid Society of Maine, Maine Home for Boys (formerly the Little Samaritan Society) in Portland, and the original Sweetser Home for Boys in Saco.

By the early 1960s Sweetser Children’s Home, as it was known, focused on providing residential services to children with severe emotional or behavioral problems, or learning disabilities.

In time, Sweetser’s commitment to behavioral health led to a system of care that included family-focused, person-centered, community-integrated services. In 1980, Sweetser expanded services from residential treatment to community-based services for children and families.

At the close of the 20th century, Sweetser merged with two respected mental health agencies: The Family Institute of Maine and Shoreline Community Mental Health Services.

In 2006, Sweetser acquired PROTEA Behavioral Health Services, which has operated under the name of Sweetser since that time.

In 2014, Harbor Family Services of Rockland joined Sweetser. And in 2018, Sweetser took ownership of Developmental Services in Bangor.

Today, Sweetser has a statewide network of care dedicated to serving children, adults and families in need of services for mental and behavioral health, developmental services, education and recovery.

Sweetser is a private, nonprofit organization funded through contracts with government agencies, fees for services paid by school districts, income from investments and through the generosity of committed friends and supporters.

Nationally recognized and accredited, Sweetser was awarded the Margaret Chase Smith Quality Award in 2002, recognizing the organization’s achievement integrating quality improvement throughout an expansive network of care.


Female Orphan Asylum – Children’s Home of Portland

15 prominent women from Portland society petitioned the state legislature to incorporate as the Female Orphan Asylum of Portland (later the Children’s Home of Portland). The bill was enacted in February and on the first of April, the women opened a fully operational orphan “house” on the corner of Free & South Streets.


Female Orphan Asylum – 50th Anniversary Annual Report

The 50th Anniversay Annual Report of the Female Orphan Asylum.


Cornelius Sweetser Bequeaths Funds

Cornelius Sweetser dies; bequeathing funds to be used, “for the foundation, maintenance and support of an Orphan Asylum in Saco, to be called the Sweetser Orphan Asylum.” It took three decades, but this was established on Moody Street in Saco.

Acts of Incorporation of Female Orphan Asylum

A photo of the Acts of Incorporation of Female Orphan Asylum


Little Samaritan Aid Society (later named Maine Home for Boys)

A picture of the Little Samaritan Aid Society, which was later named the Maine Home for Boys.


Children’s Aid Society of Maine in Belfast, established


Children’s Aid Society – Act of Incorporation

Photo of the Act of Incorporation of the Children’s Aid Society


Sweetser Orphan Asylum Opens in Saco

May 20, 1917 – The opening of the Sweetser Orphan Asylum on Moody Street in Saco.


Children’s Home 100th Anniversary Report

Angelic cherubs on the cover of the 1928 – 100th anniversary report


Mother Goose Visiting Children

Photo of Mother Goose visiting with children.


Children’s Home of Portland Joins Sweetser Home for Boys

Children’s Home of Portland joined with the Sweetser Home for Boys to become the Sweetser Children’s Home

Children’s Aid Society of Maine Joins Sweetser Children’s Home

Sweetser Children’s Home brought the Children’s Aid Society of Maine into the fold.

Sweetser Children’s Home Adds the Maine Home for Boys

Ruel Ricker

Ruel Ricker was the first Sweetser farmer who lived with his family in the original farmhouse and raised horses, pigs and chickens, and supplied the campus with fresh vegetables. An annual Ricker Farm Day event has taken place for over thirty years each summer, as a tribute to him, his passion for farming and working the land. It continues to be a fun opportunity for friends and families of those involved with Sweetser to enjoy a day of games and activities and learning about the Farm and Sweetser services.


Sweetser Children’s Services

May 28, 1992 – Sweetser Children’s Home becomes “Sweetser Children’s Services”


Merges with the Family Institute of Maine

Sweetser Children’s Services merges with the Family Institute of Maine

Sweetser Acquires PROTEA

Sweetser acquires PROTEA Behavioral Health Services

Sweetser Merges with Richardson Hollow

Sweetser merges with Richardson Hollow in the greater Lewiston/Auburn area to expand Case Management Services.

Partners with Transitions Mental Health and Phoenix Mental

Sweetser acquired Transitions Mental Health of greater Portland and Phoenix Mental Health of greater Bangor to expand our Affiliate network now approaching 500 strong.

Harbor Family Services Merges into Sweetser

Harbor Family Services merges into Sweetser, adding an additional six locations to geographic reach from Rockport to Winterport.

Developmental Services

Sweetser added Developmental Services, serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities living in a community setting in April 2018.

Thanks Sweetser Crisis,

Thank you all for everything you have done to care for and help our children. We appreciate it more than we can say.

- an appreciative family