History of Firsts

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On the Front Lines for Children for More Than 150 Years The following timeline tracks historic highlights of The Children's Aid Society's over 150 years, tracing the changes in poverty in New York City along with the evolution of our innovative programs and services.

The First Hundred Years
The Second Hundred Years

The First 100 Years

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1853 Charles Loring Brace and a group of social reformers founded The Children's Aid Society in New York City. To help an estimated 30,000 homeless children, Brace began the "Orphan Train Movement," removing children from the streets and placing them with farm families in the West. This social experiment is now recognized as the beginning of modern foster care in the United States. To reduce the incidence of crime, vagrancy and prostitution, Children's Aid opened its first industrial school for poor children and initiated the first free school lunch program in the United States.
1854 Children's Aid opened the first lodging house for homeless boys, along with the first Boys' Club rooms, which were connected to the lodging house.
1855 The Newsboys' Bank started taking deposits to encourage boys to save money instead of wasting it on gambling.
1863 The Children's Aid Society established a program that became the forerunner of PTAs, in which teachers helped mothers learn better ways to care for their families. Children's Aid opened the first Girls' Lodging Home, a shelter for homeless girls between the ages of 14 and 18.
1864 The Children's Aid Society established an industrial school for boys on East 38th Street. The school schedule included morning schoolwork, a simple lunch and an afternoon carpentry class.
1872 With support from The New York Times, The Children's Aid Society employed teams of nurses and physicians to visit sick children in tenements, establishing the model for Visiting Nurses Services. This pioneering work began after 1,000 children under the age of 5 died each week during a summer of extreme heat.
1873 Through a gift from Mrs. Anson Phelps Stokes, Children's Aid leased and equipped a large house on Staten Island, establishing the first "Fresh Air"-type vacations for city children and mothers. The rural surroundings offered an escape from hot city streets and stifling tenements. The New York State legislature passed the first compulsory education law, for which Children's Aid actively advocated.
1874 The Children's Aid Society operated 21 day schools and 13 evening schools.
1876 Children's Aid established its first kindergarten in the 18th Street School. All teachers were licensed by the State or the New York City Board of Education.
1881 The Children's Aid Society opened the first day nursery for infants and children of working women. The nursery was urgently needed as New York City was becoming a major manufacturing center and more women were joining the workforce.
1884 Children's Aid developed summer health and vacation homes in Brooklyn's Bath Beach and Coney Island to help poor, sick children recover from illness. The sea air was considered an effective cure for the diseases and malnourishment of city life in unsanitary and overcrowded tenements.
1890 The Rhinelander Industrial School opened after the Rhinelander sisters, Serena and Julia, donated property and funds to Children's Aid. The building was designed by Calvert Vaux (co-designer of Central and Prospect Parks) and George Radford. 20 Children's Aid Industrial Schools offered vocational education to children.
1891 The Children's Aid Society opened the Greenwich Village Center.
1894 The Brace Memorial Farm School opened at Valhalla in Westchester County. It provided basic agricultural training for older boys, enabling Children's Aid to place them with farm families through the Orphan Train Movement.
1898 The Children's Aid Society established the first day school in New York for disabled children. The youngsters traveled by omnibus to the Rhinelander School on East 88th Street.
1901 The Children's Aid Society employed the first school nurse in New York City for the Italian School, located in Greenwich Village. By 1909, every Children's Aid school had its own school nurse.
1902 Children's Aid established the first free classes in New York City for children with mental illnesses.
1906 The Children's Aid Society opened the first free school dental clinic in the United States in the 52nd Street School. By 1913, there was a dental clinic in every Children's Aid school.
1909 Children's Aid established the Elizabeth Milbank Anderson Home for convalescent and anemic children in Chappaqua, New York.
1912 The Children's Aid Society opened the Goodhue Center on Staten Island.
1919 Children's Aid began nutrition work after a Health Department survey of New York City school children revealed that 19% were malnourished.
1923 The Children's Aid Society created a formalized foster care department, which included permanent adoption services, bringing an end to the Orphan Train Movement. The Milbank Home for Convalescent Boys opened at Valhalla, NY.
1928 Services expanded to African-American children and families with the addition of the Columbus Hill Neighborhood Center on West 63rd Street and Utopia Children's House in Harlem.
1933 Children's Aid established Homemaker Services in cooperation with the Junior League, with Eleanor Roosevelt serving as its first chairwoman. The new service provided a "mother's helper" for families where the mother was ill or had to leave the home. It also laid the groundwork for the establishment of a wide variety of Children's Aid preventive services, which utilize counseling and outreach to avoid family breakdowns because of abuse, domestic violence, illness or other crises.
1936 Counseling and employment services for teenagers began in The Children's Aid Society community centers.
1939 The Children's Aid Society organized the Service Bureau for Negro Children to help find foster homes for African-American children.
1940 The U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children asked Children's Aid to help place British children in foster homes in New York City suburbs.
1944 Each Children's Aid center throughout New York City helped returning servicemen gain access to local and government agencies and readjust to civilian life.
1946 The Sloane Center on East 6th Street in Manhattan, constructed in 1890, underwent renovation and became a special education and recreation center.
1951 A new orthodontic treatment program was added to the dental services offered at the Lord Memorial Building on East 45th Street in Manhattan. The new three-story building also provided health screening, adoption and foster care and Homemaker Services.

In 1953, The Children's Aid Society celebrated its 100th anniversary.


Back to Top By the early 1950s, The Children's Aid Society began to feel the impact of the "baby boom." Neighborhood centers saw large increases in the number of participating children between the ages of 6 and 10.

1956 Children's Aid opened Wagon Road Camp in Chappaqua, New York to serve youngsters with a wide range of physical illnesses and disabilities. The camp offered special summer programs for disabled children and winter respite weekends for their families. In Manhattan, the East Harlem Children's Center opened.
1958 Dunlevy Milbank Center opened in Central Harlem, replacing the Harlem Boys' Club. The new building featured a swimming pool, gymnasium, large lounges, game rooms and health clinics. Frederick Douglass Community Center opened in Central Harlem, in the Frederick Douglass Houses.
1965 The Children's Aid Society and the Child Care and Adoption Service merged, providing counseling and other services to children and their natural parents or their adoptive families. The first Head Start classes in New York City began in Children's Aid centers.
1970 Free breakfast programs served food at the Sloane, Dunlevy Milbank and East Harlem Centers. Drug prevention programs began at the Frederick Douglass, Dunlevy Milbank, East Harlem and Rhinelander Centers.
1971 The Children's Aid Society started its first sex education programs for teens, parents and staff.
1973 The City of New York City selected Children's Aid to conduct the first Preventive Service Project to explore whether intensive social services can prevent foster care placements or ensure an earlier return of a child to his or her home. The Children's Aid Society established licensed mental health services in five neighborhood centers, the first to be integrated with ongoing social work programs.
1974 A bilingual after-school Learning Center opened to help children improve academic achievement.
1976 The Children's Aid Society began to sponsor Project LIVE (Learning Through Industry and Volunteer Educators), a corporate tutoring program for 7th and 8th grade students.
1979 Staff underwent training in early recognition of child abuse.
1981 The Children's Aid Society started a mediation service called PINS (Persons in Need of Supervision) to divert troubled youth from Family Court.
1982 The Children's Aid Society and the Community Council of Greater New York sponsored a conference on hunger and malnutrition, which led to the Family Supper Feeding Program for 5,000 children.
1983 Children's Aid was the first agency to provide health care, educational and recreational activities to homeless children in the city's biggest welfare hotel.
1984 The Children's Aid Society launched the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program at Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem. The program, directed by Dr. Michael A. Carrera, uses a holistic approach that helped youth develop personal goals and the desire for a productive future.
1986 Children's Aid opened the Drew Hamilton Day Care Nursery in Central Harlem.
1988 The Children's Aid Society mobile health unit began services for homeless children at the Prince George Hotel. After the welfare hotel closed, it brought medical and dental care to thousands of children each year around the city.
1990 Children's Aid established the Stern National Adolescent Sexuality Training Center to replicate the success of the Children's Aid-Carrera Teen Pregnancy Prevention program at sites around the country.
1992 The Children's Aid Society helped establish I.S. 218 in Washington Heights, Children's Aid's first public community school. Created in partnership with the New York City Board of Education, the schools continue to provide extended-day programs, health, dental, mental health and social services, as well as educational opportunities for adults to complement the core academic curriculum of each school.

The Children's Aid Society and its partners completed the renovation of the first apartments in the new Carmel Hill Project. This comprehensive community rebuilding effort brought stability to a troubled block in Harlem by improving housing conditions, empowering tenants and connecting families to Children's Aid and government services. Children's Aid established its second Community School, P.S. 5 in Washington Heights.

1994 The Children's Aid Society community school initiative expanded to include I. S. 90, a public middle school in Washington Heights. The National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools opened to help schools across the country adapt the Children's Aid model.
1995 The Children's Aid Society opened the Taft Day Care Nursery in Harlem.
1996 A new after-care program, City Challenge, served teens released from juvenile detention centers. It was one of the first community re-entry programs based on a partnership between New York State and a community-based organization. P.S. 8 in Washington Heights joined The Children's Aid Society's community school program.
1997 Children's Aid's school-based Immigration Centers began offering citizenship classes, legal counsel and emergency assistance as a result of new welfare reform legislation.
1998 The Children's Aid Society opened a community health facility with Mount Sinai Hospital at the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem, providing a wide range of pediatric, adolescent and reproductive women's health care services. The medical facility continues to serve residents of the nearby  Carmel Hill buildings. The Children's Aid Society initiated its Health Care Access Program, a proactive outreach effort to enroll children and parents in public health insurance programs. Initially based at P.S. 8, the program expanded its reach through a New York State Department of Health contract. Children's Aid now leads a coalition of agencies that together have enrolled nearly 15,000 individuals. P.S. 152 in Washington Heights and the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, a high school in East Harlem, joined The Children's Aid Society's community school program.
1999 Children's Aid released a report on the urgent need for subsidized child care in New York City, "The Human Cost of Waiting for Child Care." The Children's Aid Society launched its Economic Empowerment Initiative, a financial literacy program for children and adults, based at P.S. 8 in Washington Heights.
2000 P.S. 50, the ninth Children's Aid community school, opened with a focus on health, especially asthma prevention and treatment. The Bronx Family Center opened, offering preventive and foster care services to the Bronx community. The center's menu of services soon grew to include medical and dental care and on-site child care. The Children's Aid Society launched a national advertising campaign in partnership with the Advertising Council to promote greater awareness of the benefits of full-service community schools.
2001 Through the efforts of The Children's Aid Society's National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools, more than 100 community school adaptation sites were operating in schools across the country and around the world. Children's Aid introduced the Family Wellness Program, with the goal of breaking the cycle of family violence. Children's Aid management and advocacy continue to serve all family members and help mothers and children find safety and reestablish their independence. The Children's Aid Society introduced its second dental van through a partnership with Columbia University's School of Dentistry and Oral Surgery. The Children's Aid Society, in partnership with the New York State Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs and the state Office of Children and Family Services, launched a new community re-entry program for adjudicated youth returning from upstate residential facilities. 9/11 In the wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Children's Aid immediately created a World Trade Center Relief Team and reached out to victims' families and displaced workers with short-term emergency relief and long-term support services, with the help of The New York Times Foundation. The Children's Aid Society offered Children's Aid management and mental health services, Children's Aid assistance, benefits assistance, counseling, child care and scholarship help.
2002 The Children's Aid Society created The Hope Leadership Academy, a multi-faceted approach to help adolescents and their families cope with post-traumatic stress and reduce the risk of youth violence. Leadership skills for youth and young adults between the ages of 14 and 24 and substance abuse prevention are key components of this growing program, located in Central Harlem. The Children's Aid Society expanded its community school partnerships in the South Bronx, adding C.S. 61/I.S.190 and I.S. 98 as Children's Aid community schools. The Children's Aid Society launched the Downstate Prevention Resource Center, in partnership with the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the Federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. For the following year, the DPRC provided technical assistance for prevention service providers and others in need of new models for reaching out to people affected by 9/11.
2003 The Children's Aid Society celebrated its 150th anniversary. Children's Aid established its Go!Kids early childhood obesity prevention program (initially launched as Jump Start) at P.S. 5 in Washington Heights. Through age-appropriate lessons on nutrition, exercise and healthy lifestyles, Go!Kids seeks to help young children and their families learn how to live better and prevent obesity. The Children's Aid Society added community school partnerships with I.S. 166 and I.S. 145 in the South Bronx, and I.S. 61 on Staten Island.
2004 The Children's Aid Society celebrated the 20th anniversary of its teen pregnancy prevention program. This program was determined in a national longitudinal, random-assigned study to be one of only four in the U.S. effective at reducing pregnancy in teens. Children's Aid established the E.X.C.E.L. College Preparation and Scholarship program to provide middle and high school students with expanded educational and career opportunities through academic, social, cultural and financial preparation for college.
2005 The Children's Aid Society 's Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention program received a multi-year grant of $10.5 million to create a national expansion of its highly successful program. Children's Aid youth held the first annual Youth Speak Out on Education to discuss the impact of new Department of Education policies, making such an impression on Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott that they were invited to present their views at City Hall to Mayor Bloomberg. Additionally, a Bronx Youth Conference presented issues of concern to their peers and to local politicians. In October, C. Warren "Pete" Moses became Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of The Children's Aid Society.
2006 The Next Generation Center opened in the Bronx to serve as a one-stop center designed to meet the needs of young people transitioning to adulthood and self-sufficiency. The center provides support, guidance, training and opportunities to young people, ages 14 to 24, with a focus on youth aging out of foster care. Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School and Middle School in the Bronx become Children's Aid community schools. The New-York Historical Society agreed to receive The Children's Aid Society's historical archives.
2007 In partnership with the Council on the Environment of New York City, Children’s Aid brought its first Youth Market, a green market run by students, to a community school. Students and parents studied nutrition and healthy cooking and wanted to make fresh fruits and vegetables available to the community. During the summer of 2007, the highly successful CAS/AileyCamp expanded to a second Children’s Aid Society site, on Staten Island. CAS/AileyCamp is an innovative six-week summer dance camp that uses dance as a vehicle for developing self-esteem, creative expression and critical thinking skills for underserved youth. A special children’s boutique, A Time for Children, opened in 2007 on New York’s Upper West Side. Founded by Margie and Michael Stern and their Big Wood Foundation, the store supports The Children's Aid Society in two important ways: 100% of the profits are donated to the agency and teens from Children’s Aid programs are trained in the retail business. The teens work in A Time for Children and eventually have the skills to pursue retail careers at other major retailers. The Ercilia Pepín Parent Leadership Institute was created for parents of students at Children’s Aid community schools in Washington Heights. The Parent Leadership Institute was designed to guide parents to become strong advocates for their children in their schools, as well as provide opportunities for personal growth and education of the parents.
2008 The Children’s Aid Society, in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, launched the Latino Outreach Initiative, designed to attract additional Latino youth and their families to local New York City Boys and Girls Clubs. Two Children’s Aid Society Boys and Girls Clubs, the East Harlem Community Center and Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Middle Academies Campus in Washington Heights, participate by offering a number of programs that serve the Latino population in a more targeted way. The Initiative is nationwide. In the autumn of 2008, The Children’s Aid Society formally introduced its new series of podcasts with programs about the agency’s food and nutrition and juvenile justice programming and its new philosophy. The short interview programs are available to all who visit our podcast page, and will be followed in the spring of 2009 with a new selection of programs about Children’s Aid’s innovative programs and services for New York City’s poor children. Sharing the nation’s concern with the alarming rates of obesity and related disease among children and youth, The Children’s Aid Society launched a number of initiatives that come together as Go!Healthy – an exciting food education and action program that makes healthy food accessible and fun for young people and families in New York’s low-income neighborhoods. Go!Healthy’s age-appropriate initiatives are introducing young people, and their parents, to the joys of preparing and eating “real” delicious and healthful foods. To learn more about Go!Healthy, visit our nutrition page.