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Children's Aid Society

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Subject: Charles Loring Brace, Timeline of young people's rights in the United States, Foster care in the United States, Elizabeth Milbank Anderson, CAS
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Children's Aid Society

Children's Aid Society
Formation 1853 (162 years old)
New York, New York, U.S.
Founder Charles Loring Brace (Yale College, 1846)[1][2]
Region served
New York City
Phoebe C. Boyer (Columbia Business School, MBA)[3]
Increase $140.2 million (2014)[4]
$137.3 million (2013)
Expenses Increase $124 million (2014)[4]
$121.7 million (2013)
1,200+ full-time


See also Children's Aid Society (Canada).

Children’s Aid Society (CAS) is a private, child welfare nonprofit in New York City, founded in 1853 as the Orphan Train originator, by Yale College graduate,[1][2] Charles Loring Brace. With an annual budget of over $100 million, 45 city-wide sites, and over 1,200 full-time employees, CAS is one of America's oldest and largest children's nonprofits, after Hebrew Orphan Society of Charleston (1801), Perkins School for the Blind (1829), and Girard College (1831).[5]

CAS helps tens of thousands of disadvantaged, New York City children succeed annually, 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.[6][7]


  • History 1
    • Development 1.1
      • Other child welfare innovations 1.1.1
      • Leadership 1.1.2
  • In popular culture 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


From Harvard's Underwood & Underwood 1909 Collection
From Harvard's Underwood & Underwood 1909 Collection
From Harvard's Underwood & Underwood 1909 Collection
From Harvard's Underwood & Underwood 1909 Collection

In 1853, Children's Aid Society was founded by Yale College graduate[1][2] and philanthropist, Charles Loring Brace, with financial support from New York businessmen and philanthropists,[1] to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of children, and provide them with the support needed to become successful adults. Brace was appalled by the thousands of abandoned, abused, and orphaned children living in the slums and on the streets of New York at the time. The only options available to such children at the time were begging, prostitution,[8] petty thievery, and gang membership,[1] or commitment to jails, almshouses, and orphanages.[9]

Brace believed that institutional care stunted and destroyed children. His view was 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, and arranged to send the orphaned children to them. This became known as the Orphan Train Movement. The children were encouraged to break completely with the past and would arrive in a town where community leaders assembled interested townspeople for inspection and selection.

The program was controversial, as 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 would be raised outside of their faith once transported into the interior of the country. 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.[10]

From 1853 to the last train in 1929,[1] more than 200,000 children rode the "Orphan Train" to new lives. The Orphan Train Heritage Society maintains an archive of riders' stories.[11] The National Orphan Train Museum in Concordia, Kansas maintains records and also houses a research facility.[12]


Other child welfare innovations

Since originating the Orphan Train in 1853, CAS has founded a series of child welfare innovations that have since become commonplace, such as:[5]

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 2009, it was honored with a Village Award[13] from the Charity Navigator for a record breaking 12th consecutive year.[15]


In 1912, Charles Loring Brace Jr. (Yale College, '1876) was re-elected board secretary of the society founded by his father.[2] Board Chair Emeriti include[16] Edward Lamont, Sr. (third-generation Harvard grad)[17] and Edgar Koerner (Harvard MBA),[18] with over thirty, notable board members.[16]

In 2014, the Children's Aid Society's board of trustees appointed Phoebe C. Boyer (Columbia Business School, MBA)[3] as its eleventh President and CEO and first female leader.[19]

In popular culture

  • Kate Manning's My Notorious Life (2014) predominantly features early 1800's orphans as main characters, who get selected on the street amongst children who must prostitute themselves for food, by Charles Loring Brace for the Orphan Train, and eventually become Lake Shore Drive (Chicago) and Fifth Avenue residents.[20][21][8][22]
  • The book "Last Train Home, an orphan train story" by Renée Wendinger, is a historical novella describing the methods by which children were placed West by the Children’s Aid Society and the New York Foundling following the lives of two children of the train.ISBN 978-0-9913603-1-4
  • The book "Extra! Extra! The Orphan Trains and Newsboys of New York" by Renée Wendinger, is an unabridged nonfiction resource book and pictorial history about the orphan trains. ISBN 978-0-615-29755-2
  • The song by Utah Phillips called "Orphan Train" has been performed by numerous modern bluegrass singers.[23]
  • The book Gratefully Yours describes a nine-year-old girl's feelings about her new family who adopt her from the orphan train.[24]
  • There is a ballet entitled Orphan Train presented by Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn, which tells the story of Brace and shows stories of orphans on the train. It is choreographed by Marla Hirokawa.
  • Authors Al and Joanna Lacy have written an Orphan Trains Trilogy, depicting the lives of fictional orphans.
  • The ballad "Rider On An Orphan Train", written by David Massengill, describes the inevitable tragedy of the separation of siblings in spite of the efforts to keep brothers and sisters together.
  • The book Train to Somewhere by Eve Bunting describes a fictional account of a girl's journey on the Orphan Train.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f
  2. ^ a b c d
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b Pg. 23
  5. ^ a b c
  6. ^
  7. ^ Eckstein, Katherine. Testimony of Katherine Eckstein, Director of Public Policy, The Children’s Aid Society Prepared for the NY Education Reform Commission Public Hearing, New York City, October 16, 2012
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ The Children's Aid Society
  10. ^ p.783-784
  11. ^ Orphan Train Heritage Society
  12. ^ National Orphan Train Museum
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Children's Aid Society hires first female CEO", Crains New York (July 15, 2014)
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Orphan Train" Lyrics
  24. ^ "Mark Twain Award Master List 1971-2006"

External links

  • Official website
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