Christ Child Society volunteers nurture and provide a safe, supportive place for boys to call home

The Christ Child Society of Detroit on May 15 blessed the land upon which the nonprofit will build its new Christ Child House on Joy Road on Detroit's west side. The home is a temporary residence for boys ages 5-16 who are awaiting a more permanent residence in the foster care system. (Photos by Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic)

Across the U.S., more than 400,000 children of all ages live in foster care settings, 13,000 of them in Michigan alone, according to Catholic Charities and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. They are infants, toddlers and school-aged kids, and they are trending younger.

And, while recently, many of us spent Mother’s Day honoring our moms, thousands of children in foster care spent Mother’s Day like every other day — spent waiting, hoping or in despair. But at Christ Child House — a thriving group home for boys in foster care in the New Center neighborhood of Detroit — they had the next best thing: Christ Child Society volunteers.

The Society’s volunteers — many of whom are moms and grandmothers themselves — spend their free hours each week helping to raise and raise up the 16 boys living at Christ Child House. They step in to complement a wide range of supportive health, educational and therapeutic services to help ease trauma, abuse and neglect with an outpouring of love and support for kids who are living in a safe, residential group setting, all waiting to be adopted. The home was established in 1948 to give boys a safe and supervised place to grow up surrounded by people who care. CCS volunteers help tutor the boys, plan and chaperone field trips, take them shopping, plan parties, and keep the house organized. They also work side by side in the home’s garden where they plant and cultivate, gain an appreciation for nature and take pride in their efforts.

Whether putting in hours at the Christ Child House or giving of their talents in other impactful roles, the 375 volunteer members of the Detroit Christ Child Society, and members of 44 other Chapters nationwide, follow the example of the organization’s founder, Mary Virginia Merrick. She was a compassionate young woman from the Washington, D.C., area, whose lifelong calling was to help mothers and children in need.

As Elaina Ryder, president of the Detroit Christ Child Society explains, Ms. Merrick is being considered for sainthood for her extraordinary life of charity and service. Today, 135 years later, CCS volunteers continue what she started, giving children a better life in ways that respond to the needs of the community.

Why do they do it? This group of homemakers and professionals recognize how fortunate they are to have so many blessings in their lives and are also called to give back, whether it’s providing a new mom with the items she needs to feed and clothe her baby as she leaves the hospital or helping to fill a void in the lives of a child without a parent. They recognize that these boys — ages 6 to 16 — are in situations beyond their control, and often, someone who expresses an interest in them and can spend a few hours each week to talk or tutor them in their schoolwork, can make all the difference as they live day to day, hoping to be adopted or reunited with their fractured families.

Women such as the Christ Child Society volunteers are proof that a mother’s love is limitless and that there is enough love to go around if we all take the time to find a way to help a child and fill it. Across the country, members of Christ Child Society give back in their communities to help mothers and children in small and great ways. Several chapters also assemble and donate “comfort bags” containing toiletries, daily necessities and small toys or coloring books to kids who are suddenly displaced and in crisis due to a traumatic family situation.

Currently, the Detroit Christ Child Society is raising funds to open a larger, newer home that can better accommodate the needs of even more children awaiting permanent homes.

To learn more about volunteering with the Christ Child Society or for other ways you can help provide hope and healing, visit, or the national website,

Molly Fanning is the President of the National Christ Child Society and a member of the Columbus, Ohio Christ Child Society Chapter. She is a major proponent of the nurturing environment provided at the Christ Child House, which is fully accredited and was named “Best Children’s Home in Detroit by the U.S. Commerce Association.