The organization that eventually became St. Elizabeth Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services began in 1894 as a home for unwed mothers. Jointly sponsored by the Meridian Street chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and local evangelist William C. Wheeler, its purpose was to provide “wayward girls” with seclusion, shelter, and medical assistance, as well as supervised moral reform.

Originally part of Wheeler’s Rescue Home and Mission (now Wheeler Mission Ministries), the girls shared space with the city’s alcoholics and vagrants. That combination quickly proved untenable and Wheeler found a separate house for the Rescue Home. It incorporated as the Door of Hope in 1896 and the Indiana Door of Hope Rescue Home in 1906.

In 1912, the home affiliated with a national chain of similar institutions and took the name Florence Crittenden Home of Indianapolis. But in 1935, when the Crittenden chain insisted its affiliates stop offering mothers the choice of adoption, the local group separated and became the Suemma Coleman Home. She died in childbirth in 1924, and her stepfather William H. Coleman, who owned a lumber business, donated money in her memory for a new building for the organization and also had endowed the Indiana University School Of Medicine with money to build a hospital for women in 1927.

Changes in medicine and social attitudes gradually refocused the institution’s mission. Local hospitals eventually provided delivery services to the home’s clients and unwed mothers no longer demanded seclusion. By 1975, the home gave up its residential facilities to specialize in counseling and adoptions, becoming the Suemma Coleman Agency. In 1985, the name again changed to Coleman Adoption Services.

The licensed agency merged with Catholic adoption agency St. Elizabeth’s in 2004 to form St. Elizabeth Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services. The organization especially focuses on facilitating transracial adoption or adoption of children with special needs. It is a member of the United Way Of Central Indiana and it is a Catholic Charities agency of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Revised June 2021

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