In 2023, New York Times bestselling author and law professor at Drexel University, Adam Benforado, referenced the National Children’s Home Society in his book, A Minor Revolution. “Above the fold on page four of the (Spokane) newspaper was a report out of Louisville, Kentucky, on the ‘annual convention of the National Children’s Home Society,’ attended by ‘[m]ore than 100 men of national prominence in the field of child saving and general social problem work.’ Their aim was to promote children’s welfare by ensuring that orphaned children languishing in almshouses and orphanages were moved into family homes.” Benforado goes on to explain that, in 1906, the year of the article he referenced, “there was a broad movement under way that championed and prioritized the rights of children…”
In 2003, the current iteration of the Children’s Home Society of America (CHSA) network was established. CHSA members work at the forefront in their states and nationally to improve outcomes. The network draws from a long and complex legacy of over a hundred years of reaching children and families through systems. Today, the work holds children, families and communities at the center, rather than systems. The focus is on building well-being through a set of equity, diversity and inclusion values.
These historical snapshots illustrate the founding history for some of CHSA’s current member organizations that have a legacy in the original Children’s Home Society.
In 1853, Children’s Aid Society founder Charles Loring Brace established the Orphan Train Movement in response to an epidemic of homeless children. This response moved children from New York City streets to the homes of farm families out West. It was the beginning of the modern foster care system.
In 1883, Reverend Martin Van Buren Van Arsdale and his wife, Isabella, brought a young girl into their home to care for her because her mother was in crisis and unable to provide for her needs. This marked the beginning of what is today known as Children’s Home + Aid and the national children’s home society movement.
In 1884, 34 women met to organize a day nursery in Salt Lake City to help the working poor and provide a safe place for their children while the parent worked. One week later a baby was left on the doorstep and Children’s Service Society in Utah was created.
In 1887, The Children’s Home Society was founded by Reverend I.Z.T. Morris in 1887. It was chartered in 1904 as The Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society. Renamed The Edna Gladney Home in 1950, it is today known as The Gladney Center for Adoption.
Dr. E.P. Quivey believed in supporting young boys in decent homes rather than reform school. He and his wife became affiliated with the National Children’s Home Society, a federation of 26 state child-placing societies. In Nebraska in 1893, Dr. Quivey found between 60 and 100 children housed at The Homes of the Friendless, which eventually become Nebraska Children’s Home Society.
Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin was founded in 1895 by J.P. Dysart. In 2010, it joined together with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
In 1896, Reverend D.W. Comstock, a retired minister and former superintendent of the Children’s Home Society of Arkansas came to West Virginia representing the National Children’s Home Association to create a children’s home society. He would later also travel to Florida to establish Children’s Home Society of Florida.
In 1896, Rev. H.D. and Mrs. Libby Beach Brown establish Children’s Home Society of Washington with the mission to “find a home for every child.” They placed seven children in the first year.
With a staff of two, Reverend D.W. Comstock founded Children’s Home Society of Florida on Nov. 17, 1902 to provide a “family” for the children who had nowhere else to go.
In 1902, a group of businessmen, the Young Businessmen’s Club of Greensboro (today the Chamber of Commerce), was moved to address the issue of homeless children and established Children’s Home Society of North Carolina.
Arizona’s Children Association was founded in 1912 by Minnie Davenport to create a home in Arizona where orphaned and neglected children could be cared for and adopted. This resulted in the formation of Arizona Children’s Home Association.
The Villages of Indiana traces its roots to the late Dr. Karl Menninger, who founded the nation’s first psychoanalytic hospital. In the 1960s, Menninger established homes for neglected youth in Kansas, Indiana and Michigan. The Villages of Indiana, Inc. was first established in 1978.