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Children’s Aid Society

Founded in 1853, the Children’s Aid Society has become one of the most influential forces in American child welfare. A private organization, the CAS was originally headed by Charles Loring Brace, who envisioned it as an alternative to existing children’s institutions such as orphanages and houses of refuge. Brace saw treating the individual child as the key to alleviating urban poverty in mid-19th-century America, an ideology manifest in a battery of early CAS programs. The most famous of these was Brace’s Emigration Plan, which relocated orphan children from crowded eastern cities to the American west. The “orphan trains” transported anywhere between 100,000 to 200,000 children. Since its 1929 suspension, the CAS has remained a powerful institutional voice in American child welfare.

Charles Loring Brace initially worked ...

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