The Early Days of The Children’s Aid Society

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In the 1850’s an estimated 30,000 children, ranging in age from 6 to 18, lived homeless and neglected in the streets of New York City. In these same streets The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) was founded by Charles Loring Brace, who believed that there was a way to improve the futures of homeless children. The Orphan Trains, CAS’s first program for helping children move out of poverty, placed them in homes with stable and morally upright farm families in states out west. Brace believed that this would give these children the chance of escaping a lifetime of suffering.

The Orphan Train Movement and the success of other Children's Aid initiatives led to a host of child welfare reforms, including child labor laws, adoption and the establishment of foster care services, public education, the provision of health care and nutrition and vocational training.

To learn more about the Orphan Train Movement, watch this video by the New York Historical Society.