Tuesday, December 1 , 2015, 3:14 am | Fair 41º

Devereux Celebrates Its Founder in Honor of Women’s History Month

For 100 years, the nonprofit has continued the work of Helena Devereux, a pioneer in special education

By Janis Johnson for Devereux California |

To commemorate Women’s History Month in March, Devereux honors its founder, Helena Devereux, pioneer in special education, who began teaching “slow learners” in her home in 1912.

Helena Devereux
Helena Devereux

During a time when women were expected to be homemakers and rear children, Devereux used her knowledge and talents to provide education, skills and hope for a population of young children who were unable to reach their full potential in the public school system.

During National Women’s History Month, with the theme “Women’s Education — Women’s Empowerment,” Devereux honors this visionary in education and human service for her foresight, dedication and innovation.

Devereux began her career as a teacher in the Philadelphia public schools, where she was assigned to teach the first non-graded special education class for children with learning disabilities. Inspired by her success, but recognizing the limitations of the classroom setting, Devereux began her own program for children with special needs in Devon, Penn.

The Devereux campus at Coal Oil Point in Goleta was the first location she established outside of Pennsylvania in 1945.

Since that time, Devereux has become the nation’s largest independent nonprofit provider of behavioral health care services to children, adolescents and adults, serving those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as emotional and behavioral disorders and mental health issues.

Now located in 12 states, more than 6,000 caring Devereux staff provide services to 15,000 vulnerable individuals annually. Backed by its Institute of Clinical Training & Research, Devereux is recognized as a leader in the behavioral health-care field because of its outstanding success in designing innovative treatment programs that assist individuals with special needs in their educational and vocational pursuits.

Helena Devereux’s philosophy that “every individual is a program” is a 100-year-old legacy that is still carried on today by 150 staff in residential and day programs for 80 adults and elders, both on its Santa Barbara campus and through Supported and Independent Living Services in communities throughout Santa Barbara County.

— Janis Johnson is the manager of external affairs for Devereux California.

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