history_picThe Sisters of St. Joseph Health and Wellness Foundation (SSJHWF) is a sponsored ministry of the Congregation of St. Joseph, Wheeling Center. It was created in 2001 as the result of the sale of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Parkersburg, WV. This new Foundation was created to address systemic health care changes for the people of West Virginia.

The original Task Force appointed by the Sisters of St. Joseph Leadership Team in 2001 studied and evaluated the most significant emerging health care needs of West Virginians. This strategy enabled Task Force members to establish a priority in addressing the most important issues.  The Task Force ultimately chose the West Virginia School-Based Health Initiative as the primary area of funding for the new foundation rather than endowing multiple grant requests from various non-profit organizations. The Task Force, in collaboration with the Sisters of St. Joseph Leadership Team, decided to identify key projects and needs in established school-based health centers and fund them with large grants for a number of years hoping that this type of commitment would positively impact the spiritual, physical, and psychological health of children. In addition, the Task Force envisioned this strategy as a “hands-on” approach that would enable the SSJHWF staff to partner with existing individuals and groups who support the West Virginia School-Based Health Initiative through research, advocacy, and policy formation.

In addition to funding the WV School-Based Health Initiative, the SSJHWF Board voted in 2005 to commit a percentage of its available funding to WV Child Advocacy Center projects. Child Advocacy Centers are facilities that operate a comprehensive child-focused program for children who have been abused or neglected and are involved in the legal system in some other way. Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, mental health professionals, educators, and social service providers work together in a child-friendly atmosphere to address the child’s needs. SSJHWF Board members felt this commitment to financially support the Child Advocacy Center philosophy and team method of intervention would positively impact outcomes for child abuse/neglect victims and their families.

Since 2012, the Sisters of St. Joseph Health and Wellness Foundation has provided funding to West Virginia In-Home Family Education Programs. The West Virginia In-Home Family Education programs  (Healthy Families America, Maternal Infant Health Outreach Workers, and Parents As Teachers) are free and voluntary programs providing parenting education and support to families during pregnancy and until children are at least three to five years of age.    These community and research-based programs build protective factors which enable families to deal more successfully with whatever challenges arise.

In 2015 the Foundation expanded it’s outreach through a new strategic plan to fund new projects that will further strengthen West Virginia children and families coping with challenging situations such as addictions, domestic violence, unemployment, and others.