History

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About Our Founder

The Children's Aid Society was founded in 1853 by Charles Loring Brace and a group of social reformers at a time when orphan asylums and almshouses were the only "social services" available for poor and homeless children.

Brace's theory of an organization devoted to helping poor children was radical. His progressive ideas translated into far-reaching services and reforms for poor and homeless children, working women, needy families and disabled boys and girls at a time when services for these groups were few and far between.

Educated to be a minister, Brace was determined to give children an alternative to life in the squalid slums and teeming New York City streets. His theories were grounded in the conviction that institutional care stunted and destroyed children. According to Brace, the answers to transforming New York's orphans and street children into self-reliant members of society were gainful work, education, and a wholesome family atmosphere.

Charles Loring Brace's work transformed the face of social services and social reforms in New York City and across the nation. His imprint—his legacy—has benefited millions and millions of children. Of course, much has changed since his time, including the concepts of children's rights and parental responsibility, but Brace's imprint remains an enduring one.

The Orphan Train Movement

Between 1853 and 1929, more than 150,000 abandoned, abused and orphaned children were rescued from the streets and slums of New York City and taken by train to start new lives with families on farms across the country. The emphasis was on giving these needy children a family life.

The Victor Remer Historical Archives of The Children's Aid Society

Important historical records can be accessed via The Guide to the Records of The Children's Aid Society (1853-1947). This guide contains materials pertaining to emigration programs such as the Orphan Train, foster care and adoption programs operating between 1853-1947, annual reports to 2006, a small collection of materials from 1948-1951, and The Children's Aid Society lodging houses, industrial schools, convalescent homes, health centers and farm schools.