A History of Innovation

Children's Aid was founded in 1853 by Charles Loring Brace and a group of social reformers at a time when orphan asylums and almshouses were the only social services available for poor and homeless children in New York City. Children’s Aid operated lodging houses, fresh air programs, and industrial schools to support an estimated 30,000 poor and orphaned children living in the city’s streets, and pioneered the Orphan Train Movement.

New York City and poverty have changed drastically since the 1850s, but Children’s Aid has continuously evolved to meet the changing needs of children, youth, and their families, often pioneering social programs that have found universal traction.

a group of children sitting in a children's aid nursery

Children's Aid opens its first industrial school for children living in poverty and initiates the first unofficial free school lunch program in the United States.

With the support of the New York Times, Children’s Aid establishes the model for visiting nurses services, deploying nurses and doctors into the tenements.

The first day nursery for infants and children of working women is opened. 

Children’s Aid opens the first free school-based dental clinic. Soon there would be one in every Children’s Aid school.

Counseling and employment services for teenagers begins in Children’s Aid community centers. 

New York City’s first Head Start classes begin in Children's Aid centers.

Children’s Aid community centers implement free breakfast programs and drug prevention programs.

Children's Aid establishes licensed mental health services in five neighborhood centers, the first to be integrated with ongoing social work programs.

The Carrera Teen Pregnancy Prevention program launches at the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem and becomes a nationally recognized, evidence-based program.

Children's Aid establishes the first community school model in Washington Heights, incorporating after-school programs and comprehensive health and social services within the school building.

Every Step of the Way

How we connect children and youth with the tools to learn, grow, and lead.

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