Waifs & Strays / Children’s Society

Waifs & Strays / Children’s Society

The Children’s Society, formally the Church of England Central Society for Providing Homes for Waifs and Strays, is a charity allied to the Church of England and driven by a belief that all children deserve a good childhood.

The Children’s Society was founded in the late 19th century by Edward Rudolf, a Sunday School teacher and civil servant in south London. The aim of the Society was to establish children’s homes as an alternative to the large workhouses and orphanages common at that time.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Archibald Tait, was asked to become the President of the Society and he formally agreed to this on 24th August 1881. From this date on the Society became an officially recognised organisation of the Church of England, becoming known as the Church of England Central Home for Waifs and Strays.

The first house was opened in Dulwich in 1882. Its success, together with a growing awareness of the scale of child poverty in England and Wales, led to the rapid development of the Society. By 1890 it was running 35 houses and was also arranging foster care for children.

In 1893 the Society took the official name of the Church of England Incorporated Society for Providing Homes for Waifs and Strays. By 1905 the Society had 93 homes throughout England and Wales and was caring for a total of 3,410 children. By 1919 the charity had 113 homes and cared for 5,000 children.

In 1946 the Society was renamed the Church of England Children’s Society, the title being shortened to The Children’s Society in 1982.

In the late 1960s, the Children’s Society moved away from centralised care, fostering and adoption work and focused more on preventative work designed to support children within their own families and communities. During the 1990s the Children’s Society began focusing on social justice, lobbying to change legislation and welfare provision.