Child Inc. Celebrates 50 years in Delaware

Golden Child: Child Inc. is celebrating 50 years of helping abused and neglected youth and their families.

You can hear the pride in her voice when Martha “Muffin” du Pont talks about the history of Child Inc. The Wilmington-based private nonprofit has helped countless Delawareans since it opened as the Boys Home of Delaware in 1963.

Child Inc. is celebrating half a century of advocating for and serving the needs of troubled, neglected and abused children in the First State. The organization works with children and families who have been impacted by domestic violence. “We teach young people that if you don’t like this (lifestyle), you don’t have to do this,” du Pont says. “Get your education. The hope is getting children to want something more.”

Du Pont became involved when she heard the Boys Home was going to close. Her husband, Henry E. I. du Pont, bought her a building as a wedding present. A new board of directors established new programs and Child Inc. was born. Martha du Pont, with the help of Joe Dell’Olio, began to shape Child Inc. into the wide-reaching organization it is today.

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In the early 1970s, Child Inc. opened three group homes and offered diagnostic services for children, family counselors, and medical services. It also advocated for laws that would help the state’s endangered youth.

“At one point, Child Inc. was offering 40 services,” says Dell’Olio, who served as executive director from 1973 until he retired in 2008. “We were on the forefront.”

Du Pont says Child Inc. runs the only children’s shelter and runaway center in the state. It also offers parent education programs and a Children First Program that deals with families that are going through separation or divorce, as well as a specialized foster care program. Child Inc. also offers anger management and dating violence prevention programs in schools and a domestic violence service that includes shelter and treatment for victims as well as offenders.

It’s no wonder that du Pont and Dell’Olio are proud of their life’s work. “It gives you so much pleasure,” du Pont says. “It gives real meaning to your existence.”

(—Drew Ostroski

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