Our History

Lad Lake’s history dates back to 1848, We are the oldest children’s charity in Wisconsin. 

Lad Lake has been evolving to meet the needs of Wisconsin’s most vulnerable youth for over 170 years.  Since 1848 Lad Lake and its predecessor organizations has been guiding growth and changing lives of boys and girls who are experiencing emotional and behavioral problems or have aged out of foster care.

Lad Lake provides a safe, therapeutic environment where they can reach their full potential.


Lad Lake's St. Rose Center was established as an orphanage for young girls.


In the early days, Lad Lake was actually a working farm. Located in Dousman, 30 miles west of Milwaukee, the farm included 367 acres of land where – under the guidance of caring adults – boys would partake in daily chores and schooling, eventually becoming adults themselves.

1950s - 1970s

The organization and boys prospered and, over the years, we would build new buildings and purchase additional acres. By 1950, over 500 boys from all over Wisconsin had lived and worked on the Farm which would later be renamed as Lad Lake. The organization modified its focus to address additional social needs, and added social workers and psychiatrists to help traumatized boys. In the 1970s, Lad Lake's policies reflected the national trends toward de-institutionalization and worked to prepare the young residents for living in the greater community through “residential treatment.”


In 1999, the organization extended its reach to youth at-risk of dropping out of school when it acquired the Synergy School for boys and girls in grades 6-12 on Milwaukee’s South Side. The school was an extension of the organization’s educational expertise developed at its onsite school at the residential Dousman campus. Both schools help struggling students get back on track academically, improve interpersonal skills and assist with credit recovery.


In 2006, Lad Lake saw the needs of youth who were “aging out” of foster care – or turning 18 without ever having been adopted. The organization and staff expertise allowed for an expansion into helping these youth who were "aging out" learn to live independently. Today, the programs continue to help this vulnerable population successfully transition into the adult world through assistance in education, housing and employment. At the same time, Lad Lake extended its therapy services to the community at-large to include mentoring, in-home therapy and parent training for at-risk families.


In 2010, Lad Lake merged with St. Rose Youth and Family Center – which had its own history dating back to 1848. Originally an orphanage, St. Rose met the needs of our community’s most vulnerable girls and young women. Like Lad Lake, it grew consistently over the years. By the 1950s, the organization transitioned from an orphanage to a residential care and therapeutic day campus to help at-risk girls ages 12-18.


Today, Lad Lake remains a viable organization for boys, girls and young adults, dedicated to its founding belief in the potential of youth if they are given the benefits of a constructive community.