Foster Care History & Accomplishments

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In the mid 19th century, some 30,000 homeless or neglected children lived in New York City streets and slums. Charles Loring Brace, the founder of The Children's Aid Society, believed that there was a way to change the futures of these children. By removing youngsters from city streets and placing them in farm families, he thought they would have a chance of escaping a lifetime of suffering. He proposed that these children be sent by train to live and work on farms in the midwest and west. The resulting Orphan Train Movement lasted from 1853 to the early 1900s, and transported more than 120,000 children to new lives.

Throughout its history, The Children’s Aid Society has remained on the front lines of foster care reform and advocacy. The Orphan Train Movement and the success of other Children's Aid initiatives led to a host of national child welfare reforms including child labor laws, adoption, foster care services, public education, the provision of health care, and nutrition and vocational training.

In the early 1990s, Children's Aid pioneered Concurrent Planning, a foster care approach that became the basis for the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, and which greatly changed foster care.

Through Concurrent Planning, Children’s Aid works simultaneously with birth parents and foster parents to achieve permanency for children as quickly as possible. Our first priority is to return children safely to their own families. If that proves impossible, however, we make sure that foster families are prepared to adopt them. Our approach works: 90 percent of the children we serve who are not reunified with their birth families are adopted by their foster families. For the remaining 10 percent, we find loving homes through our Adoption Program.

Children’s Aid is also spearheading a national movement toward community-based foster care, a new model that places children in foster homes within their communities to provide continuity with school, friends and familiar surroundings, thereby lessening the trauma of placement. This model also enables us to continue working closely with birth parents and to ensure that families are connected to resources within their neighborhoods. Our Bronx Family Center is one of the first locations in New York to use this important new approach.