Joan Wallace Benjamin, Ph.D.

The Home for Little Wanderers, President and CEO

The Home has roots dating back to an orphanage founded in 1799. How has it evolved since?

The organization's initial goal was to protect orphans who were wandering the streets of Boston after the Civil War. Over the years we've merged with other organizations and grown through a combination of residential, community-based and prevention programs. The Home's services today touch the lives of more than 7,000 children, many of whom have experienced family trauma from abuse and neglect. We are also proud to be the largest provider of behavioral-health services in the Boston Public Schools.

With that kind of history, what do you do to continue to stay relevant?

The entire child welfare field has gone through significant changes. States believe that the traditional model of serving kids in residential homes is not sustainable. We now do more community-based work, with our clinicians offering services in schools, homes and clinics. For many kids, it's a more effective way of providing support without having to take them out of their home environments.

What's one of your more recent initiatives that you've gotten off the ground?

In July we opened Roxbury Village, which will provide housing and support for nine young adults. At 18, kids age out of the system, but they aren't always ready to care for themselves and are at risk for negative outcomes, including homelessness. The idea is for folks to get on their feet, learn some skills, work with our life coaches, enroll in school or get a job and eventually move into market-rate housing. It can be a difficult time in their lives, but we can help make it a bit better.

Favorite Boston neighborhood

For 15 years my husband and I lived in Fields Corner in Dorchester, off of Melville Avenue. I loved it there — it was really diverse in age, income and racial makeup, and was a very dynamic community.

Favorite spot to visit outside of Boston

We've spent some time on the Vineyard in Oak Bluffs, seeing friends and getting some R&R on the weekends, but spend most of our vacation time in Sag Harbor, N.Y.

For more information about Joan Wallace-Benjamin and The Home for Little Wanderers, please visit http://www.thehome.org/site/PageServer