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The History of Junior Blind of America

Our History

In 1953, Norman Kaplan and a group of dedicated volunteers founded Junior Blind (formerly known as the Foundation for the Junior Blind) to provide recreational services for children who were blind or visually impaired.

In 1958, Henry Bloomfield gave Junior Blind access to a 40-acre campsite in Malibu, California. Since then, Camp Bloomfield has served as a year-round residential camp for youth who were blind, visually impaired, or multi-disabled and their families.

In the 1960s, Junior Blind acquired eight acres in the Windsor Hills area of Los Angeles, and expanded services to include educational and residential programs for young people who were blind, visually impaired or multi-disabled.

In the 1970s, to meet growing community needs, Junior Blind founded Southern California's only residential rehabilitation program for adults who were blind or visually impaired.

In the 1980s, founder Norman Kaplan retired and Robert Ralls joined as the new President and CEO. Junior Blind introduced an in-home program for infants who had visual impairments and other disabilities.

In the 1990s, Junior Blind remodeled its campus to include state-of-the-art education and rehabilitation facilities and also extended services to incorporate greater family participation.

In the 2000s, Junior Blind launched new services to address the emerging needs in the community, including a teen program with a focus on college and careers, a vision screening program that provides free vision tests to thousands of low-income pre-school children and an after school enrichment program that integrates typically developing children with those who are blind, visually impaired or multi-disabled.

Camp Bloomfield celebrated 50 years of serving children and their families. Bob Ralls retired and Miki Jordan joined to lead the organization as the President and CEO.

In 2010, long-time supporter Stevie Wonder joined Junior Blind's Board of Directors.

In 2012, changes in federal law mandated that children referred by state Regional Centers, like those residing in our Children’s Residential Program, be moved to smaller family home settings, so Junior Blind opened Group Homes in the neighborhood surrounding our Los Angeles campus to accommodate our residents who have moderate-to-severe disabilities.

The Children’s Residential Program on campus transitioned to serving medically fragile foster youth in need of a stable and safe home environment with access to mental health and nursing services.

Junior Blind expanded its presence in Northern California through a merger with the renowned Hatlen Center in San Pablo, California and with an extension of our transition services for youth who are blind or visually impaired.

In 2013, Junior Blind celebrated 60 years of service to children, youth and adults who are blind, visually impaired or multi-disabled. The organization also launched an employment services program to help adults with vision loss enter or re-enter the workforce.

In 2014, after a year-long process of demonstrating our best practice standards in the field of human services, Junior Blind received accreditation from the Council on Accreditation (COA). This standards-driven accreditation ensures that Junior Blind’s services are well-coordinated, culturally competent, evidence-based, outcome-oriented and provided by a skilled and supported workforce.

Junior Blind also fortified its presence in Central and Northern California through a merger with the Blind Babies Foundation.

In 2015, Junior Blind expanded its mission and values to more fully embrace all whom we now serve: children, youth and adults who have physical, developmental or emotional challenges and their families.

For the sixth year in a row, Junior Blind achieved the coveted four-out-of-four stars rating from America’s largest and most influential charity evaluator, Charity Navigator—a feat accomplished by only 4% of charities nationwide.

In 2016, Junior Blind solidified its presence in the child welfare arena through its launch of a transitional shelter care program for young children entering the foster care system for the first time.