In 1894, friends of Miss Hannah Hyatt cautioned her about giving her home and 80-acre farm to “the Baptists” who were seeking to open a home for orphans in Arkansas. But she unwaveringly replied, “I have made a covenant with the Lord and I will not break my vow.”
Following God’s direction, Hyatt handed over her Monticello home and farm to the Arkansas Baptist Orphan’s Home – now called The Arkansas Baptist Home for Children in Monticello – becoming its first matron. Four children were welcomed in 1896.
By 1902, 54 children were living at the home. Two horses were purchased, as well as 160 acres of adjoining land.
In 1923, following a fire that burned the boys’ dormitory and the schoolroom, Mrs. George Bottoms of Texarkana provided major funding for two new dormitories. In honor of her generosity, the home was renamed the Bottoms Baptist Orphanage the following year.
Two years later, in 1926, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention approved an annual offering to be taken around Thanksgiving to support the ministry to orphans. This offering has long been a means of financial support for ABCHomes.
In 1938, fire destroyed the original Hyatt home, which served as the administration building. In its place, a new administration office was completed and dedicated in 1939. It still stands today.
Since the 1930s, most of the children in care were not orphans but dependent and neglected children. To better reflect this shift, the name was changed in 1961 from the Bottoms Orphanage to the Arkansas Baptist Home. Instead of large dormitories, children lived in cottages, which created a more home-like setting.
A new era of growth began in 1968 when a Little Rock area office opened to assist with families and child care needs in Central Arkansas. A year later, Jonesboro became home to an area office.
A Group Home for Boys opened in 1970 in Jonesboro, and Arkansas Baptist Boys was established in Harrison in 1989. Five years later, in 1994, the Jonesboro home was closed and relocated to the ranch.
Continuing in its ministry to children and families in crisis, ABCHomes opened Promise House, a home for unwed teen mothers, in El Dorado in 1991. It was relocated to Little Rock in 1999 and closed in 2014.
Today, ABCHomes also operates three Family Care Homes for single mothers – in Jonesboro, Little Rock and Springdale – and three Family Homes for children in Judsonia, Paragould and West Fork. Counseling services are provided in seven locations around the state.