Our History

The 1960’s were a dynamic time in our country’s history. It was a period of hope and expansion. The passage of the Community Mental Health Act of 1963 quickened the pace of de-institutionalization and this along with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, lead to an understanding that keeping individuals with serious mental illnesses in long term institutional hospitals was no longer acceptable in our society.

It was in this climate that Stepping Stones was established in 1969 by a dedicated group of mental health advocates who saw the need for housing and residential programs to help adults with serious mental illnesses live in a community setting.

The desire to establish residential services was realized in 1970 when Stepping Stones opened its first halfway house for eight residents. Since that time, the halfway house model has given way to more specialized community based services and we have grown to become northern Illinois’ leading provider of residential psychiatric rehabilitation for adults with serious emotional disturbances and persistent mental illnesses.

Our organization’s commitment to being a part of improving the overall health our community was solidified in 1981 when a permanent administrative facility was secured in downtown Rockford. Since that time we have continued to develop our programs and have expanded our group homes and related supported and supervised living environments to serve hundreds of individuals and their families.

The services providing in our group homes form the foundation of the residential care we provide. In addition to establishing these group homes, we have also made a number of notable developments in services and housing options and now offer a continuum of care to our residents.

In 1993, with the assistance the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Stepping Stones built the first two new housing units totaling thirty apartments for adults with serious mental illnesses in Winnebago County. These supported apartments provide safe and affordable housing that allow us to offer mental health services to individuals who on longer need the structure of a group home.

In 1997 our organization entered into an agreement with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to serve individuals in need of ongoing mental health care who were making their transition to adulthood. Many of these young adults were previously being referred outside their communities or the state by DCFS for residential treatment. We continue to serve these young adults in supervised and supported housing programs.

A long time dream was realized in 2000 when a cooperative program with Rockford Hosing Authority (RHA) allowed us to open River North, a forty bed apartment complex to serve seniors age 50 and older. This is a relaxed setting at the north end of Rockford which is suitable for our residents who are aging. River North has received national recognition as a cooperative venture between a housing authority and a provider of mental health services.

True to our mission Stepping Stones accepted our first referral from Winnebago County’s Mental Health Court’s Therapeutic Intervention Program (TIP) in 2006 to provide the intensive services necessary to interrupt repeat offenders. In 2012 we expanded our focus in this area by developing a community conditional release program.

As you can see, Stepping Stones’ experience in meeting the housing and recovery needs of individuals with serious mental illnesses is considerable. We begin by helping young people make their successful transition to adulthood, continue services that help adults experience the benefits of recovery and maintain care for those participating in our program when they become senior citizens. Through these programs we are able to help the individuals we serve break the cycle of psychiatric hospitalization, homelessness and involvement in the criminal justice system and live as independent and successfully as possible here in our community.

Key Dates in Stepping Stones’ History

    • 1969-Stepping Stones is founded and incorporated.


    • 1970-First home purchased for a halfway house and later converted to a Group Home.


    • 1971-Established first semi-independent “Apartment Program” which was the first in the area.


    • 1980-Residential services replace the Halfway House model.


    • 1983-Became a partner in founding NAMI Northern Illinois (formally known as the Northern Illinois Alliance for the Mentally Ill), an affiliate of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).


    • 1987-The psychosocial rehabilitation model was implemented.


    • 1990-Developed and opened a CILA (Community Integrated Living Arrangements) program in cooperation with Janet Wattles Center and Rockford Housing Authority for seventeen residents. The agency’s service capacity reaches 85 persons.


    • 1991-Services expanded to include psychiatry, nursing, crisis and day treatment services in order to fully participate in Department of Mental Health’s CILA services.


    • 1991-Mildred Kral Center at 706 N. Main St. in Rockford was dedicated and became the headquarters for administrative, counseling, nursing and day treatment services.


    • 1993-Completed construction of two fifteen unit HUD apartments. Apartments were the first new housing in the area constructed exclusively for persons with mental illness.


    • 1994-Received Medicaid license from the Illinois Department of Mental Health.


    • 1996-Joined the Northwest Behavioral Health Consortium with area treatment providers towards the goal of instituting proactive behavioral healthcare measures.


    • 1997-Joined Precedence Plus, a not-for-profit Behavioral Healthcare Network.


    • 1997-Became accredited by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).


    • 1997-Opened a group home for persons 18-21 years of age who are wards of the Department of Children and Family Services to help residents make the transition to adult hood.


    • 1998-Closed the financing necessary to purchase four additional apartment buildings in order to provide one bedroom apartments for sixteen individuals.


    • 1998-Closed two group homes and purchased two larger ones in order to better serve our residents.


    • 1998-Opened a group home dedicated exclusively to serving persons with mental illness and developmental disabilities.


    • 1999-Expanded psychosocial rehabilitation services to assist individuals with emotional intensity disorders and began offering computer training opportunities. A consumer affairs office was created and consumers were empowered to create a newsletter, plan and operate various special events and attend consumer forums and related training events.  A consumer representative is hired to coordinate these consumer services.


    • 1999-Stepping Stones provides case management to 120 individuals which includes serving residents in seven group homes, two fifteen unit apartments and four supervised apartments.


    • 2000-In cooperation with the Rockford Housing Authority, opened “River North” which had two focus areas. An apartment program designed specifically to serve individuals with mental illness, age 50 and older and a residential program to serve adults with mental illness and traumatic brain injury.  Overall agency service capacity reaches 140 persons.


    • 2002-Lack of adequate funding results in the discontinuation of services to those living with the consequences of traumatic brain injury.


    • 2002-Due to a lack of funding an agreement was entered with Bethphage to turn over the operation of two homes dedicated to serving adults with mental illness and developmental disabilities. Stepping Stones returns to the primary mission of serving adults with serious and persistent mental illnesses.


    • 2003-Due to lack of funding, an additional group home is closed and agency now operates four (4) fully supervised group homes in addition to two (2) fifteen unit supported housing apartment units, four (4) supervised apartments and in cooperation with Rockford Housing Authority, a 40 bed supervised apartment facility. The organizational chart is changed and the position of Director of Operations is created.


    • 2004-The organization’s revenue reaches $4.2 million dollars.


    • 2005-Stepping Stones completed the purchase of River North, a 44 bed facility designed to serve adults age 50 and older and assumes full operations of this facility.


    • 2006-The organization replaced JCAHO accreditation with CARF accreditation.



    • 2012-The organization opens an off-site satellite office to serve adults who live more independently and participate in the “apartment program.”


    • 2012-The organization begins a Community Conditional Release Program (CCRP) dedicated to providing services for adults determined UST and NGRI at an existing Group Home. This includes forensic restoration services.


    • 2013-The organization provides office and rehearsal space for the Stars of Light, a consumer theatre troupe in cooperation with NAMI Northern Illinois in order to ensure the Stars continuation. Expressive therapy is offered to persons served by the organization by the troupe’s Director.


    • 2014-The organization expands housing by purchasing three additional apartment complexes one includes a staff office on-site.


    • 2014-The organization’s Board of Directors and leadership initiates CEO succession planning by naming Sue Schroeder as Chief Operating Officer.


    • 2015-The organization opens an apartment complex with an on-site staff office to provide supported care to help individuals served make the transition to a more independent living environment.


    • 2015-Dr. Kamal Modir, the organization’s first “agency” psychiatrist retires after 24 years of service to Stepping Stones.


    • 2015-Forensic services “Criminal Justice System-Adults” added to the organization’s CARF license following a successful re-survey.


    • 2016-The organization re-opens the North Main Group home to provide supervised housing for adult women.


    • 2016-The organization’s revenue exceeds 7 million dollars, 100 employees and static capacity of 150 individuals served.


    • 2016-Stephen Langley, LCSW retires after serving as Executive Director/CEO for thirty-seven years. Susan Schroeder, LCSW, becomes the organization’s new CEO.


    • 2017-The organization is awarded a grant from the National Council on Behavioral Health to become a trauma informed care provider.


    • 2017-The organization implements a more fully electronic health record system to more efficiently manage client clinical record and related systems.


    • 2017-The Stars of Light becomes a program of the organization. The Stars of

    Light is comprised of individuals with mental illness and their families and friends, who produce a variety of artistic expressions that educate the public about mental illness, combat stigma and furthering our community’s understanding of mental health issues.