A Proud Legacy

Founded in 1880, Three Rivers Youth has over 141 years of experience providing services to at-risk children, youth and families. TRY advances a mission to preserve and unite families, combat homelessness, enhance educational opportunities and build life skills for at-risk youth. TRY achieves this mission through programs and services that touch over 5,500 youth, adults and families annually. TRY programs/services include: Community Health, Mental Health; Drug & Alcohol – Diversion, Prevention, Intervention, Treatment, Assessments, Outreach, and Recovery Services; Foster Care; & Family Preservation (in-home) Services.

As a nationally accredited human service agency through the Council on Accreditation, continuous quality improvement drives service delivery across programs and services at Three Rivers Youth. Our commitment to quality services and evidence-based approaches catalyzed our decision to apply to become a Sanctuary Certified Organization; a process we remain committed to. The Sanctuary Model is an evidence informed, organizational change model that addresses the impact of client, staff and organizational trauma on overall service quality and outcomes. Sanctuary Certified Organizations have shown significantly better outcomes for clients, in addition to increased overall moral and improved retention rates for staff.

Two important studies on the history of Three Rivers Youth, made possible by use of our archives are:

  • Colored Orphans to Youth Development: The 125-Year History of Three Rivers Youth
  • Child Care in Black and White: Working Parents and the History of Orphanages

1880-2005, © 2006 University of Pittsburgh Press. A Publication of the University of Pittsburgh Office of Public Affairs; a comprehensive introduction to the history of Three Rivers Youth; illustrated by photographs and artifacts from Three Rivers Youth’s archives.

Jessie B. Ramey © 2012 University of Illinois Press.  study of the development of institutional childcare from 1878 to 1929 based on a comparison of two “sister” orphanages in Pittsburgh: the Home for Colored Children and the all-white United Presbyterian Orphans Home.


Three Rivers Youth proudly advances a comprehensive commitment to aid vulnerable youth, boasting a distinguished record of leadership with achievements acknowledged at local, state, and national levels. Three Rivers Youth boasts client success rates that exceed national and regional benchmarks with school attendance at 97%, truancy abatement at 71%, and a 100% high school graduation rate that has held for the past 8 years. Over 70% of the children in care eventually return to their family of origin or a less restricted setting.

The organization’s longevity is a fitting tribute to the valiant efforts and tenacity of several generations of devoted patrons, directors, and staff, most of them women. Excellence in management and service delivery is further evidenced by an extensive portfolio of contracts with city, county, state, and federal agencies. We are one of only 12 agencies in Allegheny County accredited by the Council on Accreditation for Services to Children and Families (COA), operating as a COA-accredited agency for over 20 years and for more than 50 years as a Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare-licensed organization. For half a century, we have distinguished ourselves as a United Way high-performing partner agency exemplifying the United Way’s commitment to financial integrity and operational accountability.

In 2005, celebrating its 125th anniversary, Three Rivers Youth launched an annual signature fundraising event, the Nellie Leadership Awards, recognizing noteworthy institutional and individual contributions to community engagement, education, advocacy and healthcare on behalf of vulnerable at-risk youth in the Greater Pittsburgh region. A scholarship fund for at-risk youth was established with support from Duquesne Light. From Colored Orphans to Youth Development, a multimedia exhibition was curated and presented by the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Public Affairs. Later, Three Rivers Youth’s archive of papers, photographs and artifacts was donated to the Heinz History Center where it is partially catalogued and available for scholarly research.

More recently, on September 25, 2013, Three Rivers Youth was among eight child welfare organizations honored by Allegheny County in a “Celebration of Milestones,” commemorating the 50th anniversary of the placement of responsibility for child protection under the auspices of the county executive, separate from the county’s juvenile court system, where jurisdiction has fallen prior, and the 75th anniversary of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work offering a child welfare degree specialization. The event was also a key component of an opening anniversary week launching a yearlong celebration commemorating the 225th anniversary of Allegheny County and the 125th anniversary of the Courthouse.

Peggy Brower Harris, MPA the President and CEO of Three Rivers Youth since 2000, recently received the 2012 Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and the 2013 Allerton Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh, among the many accolades she has received over her distinguished career spanning three decades.