Children's Aid Society

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Children's Aid Society
Formation 1853 (162 years old)
Founder Charles Loring Brace
Founded at New York, New York, U.S.
Increase $140.2 million (2014)[1]
$137.3 million (2013)
Expenses Increase $124 million (2014)[1]
$121.7 million (2013)


Office in the South Bronx
CAS Community School in Washington Heights
See also Children's Aid Society (Canada).

Children’s Aid Society (CAS) is a private, child welfare organization based in New York City, established in 1853 as the Orphan Train originator. CAS is one of the oldest and largest child welfare agencies in the United States, with an annual budget of over $100 million, 45 sites, and over 1,200 full-time employees. It serves tens of thousands of New York City children per year by providing comprehensive services of adoption and foster care, after-school and weekend programs, arts, camps, early childhood education, events, family support, medical, mental health, and dental, juvenile justice, legal advocacy, special initiatives, sports and recreation, and youth development programs.[2][3]


In 1853, Children's Aid Society was founded by philanthropist Charles Loring Brace in order to ensure the physical and emotional well being of children and families, and to provide each child with the support and opportunities needed to become a happy, healthy and productive adult. Brace, a minister by training, was appalled by the thousands of abandoned, abused and orphaned children living in the slums and on the streets of New York at that time. The only option available to such street children at that time was commitment to jails, almshouses and orphanages.[4]

Brace believed that institutional care stunted and destroyed children; in his view, only work, education and a strong family life could help them develop into self-reliant citizens. Brace knew that American pioneers could use help settling the American West, so he arranged to send the orphaned children to pioneer families who needed them. This became known as "The Orphan Train Movement."

The children, who were encouraged to break completely with the past, would typically arrive in a town where community leaders had assembled interested townspeople. The townspeople would then inspect the children and choose the ones they wanted.

The program was controversial; some abolitionists viewed it as a form of slavery, while some pro-slavery advocates saw it part of the abolitionist movement, since the labor provided by the children made slaves unnecessary. Some Catholics viewed the program as anti-Catholic, as a significant percentage of poor children in Manhattan were Irish Catholic, and once transported into the interior of the country they would be raised outside their faith. In response, the Archdiocese of New York upgraded their own child-welfare programs, improving the parochial school system, building more Catholic orphanages, and creating a 114-acre (46-hectare) training center on farmland in the Bronx, which they called the Catholic Protectory.[5]

Between 1854 and 1929, more than 200,000 children rode the "Orphan Train" to new lives. The Orphan Train Heritage Society maintains an archive of riders' stories.[6] The National Orphan Train Museum in Concordia, Kansas maintains records and also houses a research facility.[7]

In 2012, The Children's Aid Society was rated 4/4 stars[8] by charities rating organization Charity Navigator for a record breaking 12th consecutive year.[9] In 2009, it was honored with a Village Award[10] from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation for its Philip Coltoff Center in Greenwich Village (since razed for new residential development).

Other child welfare innovations[edit]

Since originating the Orphan Train, CAS has founded a series of child welfare innovations that have since become commonplace, such as:

In the 1980s CAS created the first family court diversion programs, where social workers meet with out-of-control children and their families in an attempt to find out of court solutions.

In 1992, CAS created the first "community school", a partnership with the New York City Department of Education where a full array of health, mental and after-school, weekend and summer programs are available to students at school. The Technical Assistance Center has helped visitors from all over the United States and more than 40 foreign countries learn how to apply "community school" concepts in their schools.

In 2014, the Children's Aid Society's board of trustees appointed Phoebe C. Boyer as its eleventh President and CEO. She is the first female to lead the society, since Charles Loring Brace founded Children's Aid.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]