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Orange County Digest

Orange : Sitton Home Move Into Orangewood Completed

June 27, 1985|Shirish Date

"Here comes the parade," said William Steiner as child care workers Wednesday morning led 32 infants and toddlers into the just-finished Orangewood Children's Home. The 32 were the last children to move from the Albert Sitton Home next door, which is closing its doors after serving as Orange County's children's home for 26 years.

Steiner, director of Sitton and now of Orangewood, said the new facility can hold up to 170 children and currently houses 159, who range in age from a few months to 17 years. Orangewood has been under construction for two years and cost $7.5 million, all but $1.4 million of it raised from the private sector.

"This has been considered the largest cooperative public-private effort . . . in the country," Steiner said. "It's amazing what can happen when the private sector is involved to this degree."

"Contributions have ranged from pennies to . . . $1 million from William Lyon (chief executive officer of AirCal and chairman of Orangewood's Board)," said board member Tom Santley.

Older children moved into Orangewood last April, with younger ones waiting for their dormitories to be finished this year. A gymnasium and recreation center will be completed in August, with the formal dedication tentatively planned for September.

Steiner estimated that about 2,200 children will stay at Orangewood this year, with the average stay lasting about three weeks. Children are sent to Orangewood after law enforcement or social agencies uncover allegations of abuse or neglect. The children remain until given back to their parents or until foster homes can be found.

The Albert Sitton Home was built in 1959. Originally designed to hold 35 children, it was expanded 17 years ago to house 68. During recent years, the home has been subject to extreme overcrowding, at one point housing 146 children.

Orangewood was conceived four years ago to relieve overcrowding at Albert Sitton, which will now be used as a juvenile hall by the Probation Department.

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