Agency History


From humble beginnings…

Looking Glass has grown to serve the needs of Lane County. A small group of leaders, youth, and activists joined together to create a new service for young people in need. Today, Looking Glass serves thousands of people a year with hundreds of staff, providing top quality care for the wide needs of struggling youth and their families.

Learn more below about how we have grown to meet the needs of our community’s children over the past decades.


  • 1975 - Counseling Center and Shelter become core services.

  • 1978 - Adolescent Recovery Program created to serve youth with outpatient substance abuse services.

  • 1979 - Youth Employment Resources Center opens to provide job training.

In 1970, a small group came together to brainstorm how they could help runaway youth in their community. Starting with some general outreach and volunteering, the group officially formed Looking Glass in 1971. A mix of former runaways, psychologists, ministers, and lawyers, they saw a significant need for a dedicated site to help the growing youth runaway crisis. Beginning with temporary shelter and counseling, these founders grew quickly to provide brand new services, including a 24/7 crisis phone line, foster home program, and outreach to schools.

Looking Glass was part of a national movement of expanding nonprofits focused on youth services. Members of the original group attended the first national conference which formed the National Network of Runaway and Youth Services. With the passage of the Runaway and Youth Act in 1974, Federal funds became available to hire more permanent staff to serve youth. Looking Glass became one of the first federally funded runaway shelters in the country.

  • 1981 - Stepping Stone is started as our first residential program for boys.

  • 1982 - Youth Employment Center becomes Job Center, providing more job help services and training

The 1980s saw Looking Glass continue its transition into professional services and looking for better ways to serve a growing client base. Local support for Looking Glass grew with United Way and other funding sources allowing for more stable and expanded programing. Major expansions were done in creating the first youth residential programs and providing job training. Residential programs provided a new service that offered a more holistic approach to youth treatment. Education and job training took off by contracting with local school districts to help youth who were not doing well in traditional environments. Expansions into new program areas were inspired by staff, recognizing new needs and working tirelessly to provide those services.

In 1986, Oregon passed the Runaway Law, which decriminalized the act of teenagers running away from home. This was part of a national trend that saw the end of runaways being arrested and often returned to their homes. This opened up for better collaboration between nonprofits, like Looking Glass, and local governments to provide improved services and build trust with this vulnerable youth population.

  • 1990 - Pathways residential program opens to provide boys with more specialized substance abuse treatment.

  • 1994 - New Roads opens as day drop in center for homeless and runaway youth.

    • Evaluation and Treatment Center is first residential program for girls.

    • Job Center becomes Job Center School (later Riverfront School and Career Center), adding education with GED prep.

  • 1995 - Shelter program becomes Station 7 with new location and new services.

    • New Roads School opens to provide homeless and runaway youth credit recovery and GED prep

During the 1990s, with Looking Glass’ core services established, focus was placed on improving and expanding programs to respond to the growing need for services. Looking Glass and Lane County invested in new buildings and programs that provided for this increasing demand. A major achievement was the successful creation the Serbu Complex in Eugene, which created high quality facilities that could provide enough beds for the youth needing residential programs. Looking Glass leadership also helped create Lane Care, the first coordinated care organization in the county.

The National Safe Place Program was expanding nationally and Looking Glass became the sole provider of the program in Oregon. This is one of Looking Glass’s longest ongoing collaborations with community partners, working with Lane Transportation Department, Dari Mart, McDonalds, Fire Departments, and more to make sure youth always have a safe place.

  • 2000 - Intensive Day Treatment Center (now Center Point School) formally opens

  • 2005 - Crisis Response Team, Looking Glass is a key partner in its operation by the Child and Adolescent Network, provides 24-Hour Crisis Line along with Crisis Response Team for children and teens in crisis.

  • 2006 - Looking Glass receives national accreditation for the first time from the Council on Accreditation, demonstrating the following of best practices for youth programs.

In the 2000s after significant investments, Looking Glass continued to create new programing and upgrading existing facilities. Each program area saw new ideas and programs started. For example, the Culinary Arts Program was created, providing youth clients with food service experience to more easily find work after their high school graduation. The construction of the River Road campus, on the site of the original building from 1971, created a state of the art residential facility for youth.

With the fall in revenue from a diminished timber industry, Lane County struggled to keep funding up for social services. Looking Glass was one of the programs that lost significant county funding. Looking Glass board and staff continued to find creative ways in funding programs. This led to increased state funding, successfully preserving long running youth programs and developed stronger relationships with the state.

  • 2010 - Intensive Treatment Center, the first psych residential program for youth in Lane County opens.

  • 2019 - Regional Crisis Center opens providing more intensive treatment for youth experiencing acute mental health crises.

Through the 2010s with more research on best practices for youth health, Looking Glass expanded care integrating more forms of healthcare into programs. By partnering with Oregon Health Plan medical care was brought to all programs. Research also showed the importance of cultural competency for all staff. The need to better care for the increasingly diverse identifies of Looking Glass clients lead to standardized agency trainings that help foster social justice within all programs.

Looking Glass was one of the leaders of the Oregon Alliance of Children’s Programs, which achieved a court settlement requiring Oregon to provide improved funding to youth programs. Previously funding levels were on a downward trend, leading to the threat that programs had to be shut down, but with the successful negotiations, the state increased funding preserving critical programs for youth.

Over the decades of its existence, Looking Glass has always aimed at caring for the most vulnerable people in Lane County. With a foundation in runaway and homeless youth services, the organization expanded into a wide range of programs that now serve all ages across many needs. Due to the dedication of staff and supporters, youth who received services from opening to today have come back to share their successes stories. Across Lane County and the world there are former clients who transformed their lives and were given a better chance at a successful life. Looking Glass’ everyday mission continues to be to listen to the needs of clients to make sure compassionate staff continue to provide help, hope, and healing for years to come.