The Children's Society

The Children's Society
The Church of England Children's Society
The Children's Society logo
Founder(s) Church of England
Type Charity
Registration No. 221124
Founded 1881
Location London, United Kingdom
Coordinates 51°31′36.17″N 0°6′42.66″W / 51.5267139°N 0.11185°W / 51.5267139; -0.11185Coordinates: 51°31′36.17″N 0°6′42.66″W / 51.5267139°N 0.11185°W / 51.5267139; -0.11185
Area served England
Focus Childhood
Revenue £42.4m
Motto A better childhood. For every child.

The Children's Society, formally The Church of England Children's Society, is a UK charity (registered in England No. 221124)[1] allied to the Church of England and driven by a belief that all children deserve a good childhood.



The Children's Society’s roots go back to the late nineteenth century when Edward Rudolf, a young Sunday School teacher and civil servant in South London, became concerned when two of his regular pupils did not turn up for their Sunday lessons.[2] He set out to look for them and found them begging on the streets. He discovered that their father had died leaving their mother struggling to bring up seven children under 11 years old, and realised that there was a need for a more caring alternative to the large workhouses and orphanages common at that time.

Rudolf led a deputation to Archibald Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury to put forward a plan for the establishment of Church of England children's homes and, in 1881, a new organisation was registered as the Church of England Central Society for Providing Homes for Waifs and Strays. It kept this name until 1946, when the title was changed to the Church of England Children's Society; and since the 1980s it has been known as The Children's Society.

Early days

The first home 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 Children's Society. By 1919 the charity had 113 homes and cared for 5,000 children.

The Children's Society's homes were part of the local community. The children attended local schools and were often entertained and helped by local people and organisations. Opportunities for training were also available. Several of the homes specialised in training for employment. The Standon Farm Home in Staffordshire, for example, provided agricultural training.

A main feature of The Children's Society's work was its insistence that children should not become long-term residents in homes and should be given every opportunity to have a family life by being boarded out, fostered or adopted. By the late 1960s The Children's Society had become one of the largest adoption agencies in the country.

A new era: 1970 onwards

In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, in response to the significant social changes of these years, The Children's Society moved away from its traditional centralised care, and its fostering and adoption work. The aim now was to develop preventative work designed to support children and young people within their own families and communities. During the 1970s and 1980s The Children's Society introduced many family centres throughout the country. These offered a wider range of services, including advice centres, play groups, youth clubs and short term accommodation for young, single mothers.

Achieving social justice: 1990–2002

During the 1990s The Children's Society moved into a new era of working for social justice. This work built upon the experience and understanding gained in the previous twenty years' work on the ground. Understanding the issues faced by young people enabled The Children's Society to respond to the needs of children and young people more effectively through new projects, lobbying to change legislation and welfare provision, and allowing young people to speak and act for themselves so they could shape their own lives.

The Children's Society street work programme in the late 1990s is an example of how practical experience fed into broader campaigning. The Children's Society's safe-house programme gave it wide experience of young people on the streets. This culminated in a major study in 1999[3], which called for a nationwide network of safe houses to be set up, and for statutory money to pay for them.

The Children's Society's work with young people on the streets also fed into a campaign to decriminalise prostitution for under-18s. Guided by its experience of young people involved with prostitution, it argued that child prostitution should be seen as a child protection issue, and that police and other agencies should protect children and young people from exploitation. In 1995, The Children's Society published the first report to highlight child prostitution in this way and the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Directors of Social Services responded by making a public commitment to review the way they dealt with these children. The Children's Society continued to highlight the issue in 1997 by holding Britain's first conference on the subject, and publishing a detailed report[4]. This resulted directly in fresh government guidelines in 2000 recommending that the police should treat the children as victims of abuse rather than as perpetrators of crime.

Priorities for The Children's Society in the 21st century

Over the years the work of The Children's Society has changed as society itself has changed. What has stayed constant are the founder's Christian and child-centred values and intentions. The charity's early focus on establishing homes to care for vulnerable children has shifted to direct work with children and families in the community, and to lobbying and campaigning for a better childhood for all children.

The charity's direct practice continues to target the most vulnerable children and young people in our society, including young refugees, children at risk on the streets, children in trouble with the law, and disabled children and young people. Its research, policy and campaigning work is informed by the findings of The Good Childhood Inquiry.


The Children's Society's mission is to make childhood better for all children through direct action to stop them feeling excluded, isolated or abandoned. It also seeks to challenge injustice and influence thinking about what needs to change to improve the lives of children. The charity's two governing objectives are to:[5]

  1. directly improve the lives of children and young people for whom it provides services
  2. create a positive shift in social attitudes to improve the situation facing all children and young people.

The Children's Society works towards these objectives through research and campaigning, and through a network of programmes which helps over 45,000 children and their families each year.

There are various ways to support the charity's work, and opportunities to participate in fundraising events and activities.

The Children's Society's network of programmes directly supports:

  • Children and young people who are forced to run away from home or care, protecting them from abuse, crime and prostitution on the streets.
  • Children and young people in trouble with the law, guiding them away from a cycle of crime and custody.
  • Refugee children, helping them rebuild their lives in new communities, surrounded and supported by friends.
  • Disabled children and young people, ensuring they are protected and are given the choices that other children enjoy.
  • Children who are often forgotten, such as young carers, traveller children or children whose parents misuse alcohol or drugs.

As well as supporting change at an individual level through its direct programmes of work, The Children's Society aims to effect systemic change by influencing legislation and government practice, and to effect a positive shift in public attitudes towards children and young people.


The charity's income[6] grew by 6% in 2009-10 to £42.4m. This was largely voluntary income generated through fundraising and events (£23.1m). A further £12m was generated for the provision of children's services and £5.3m from charity shops. Other income, including from investments, brought the total to £42.4m.

Of this, around £12m was spent on generating income and almost £30m spent on the society's direct work with children and campaigning activities.

The Good Childhood Inquiry

The Children's Society's current governing objectives and strategy are based on the findings of The Good Childhood Inquiry[7], an independent inquiry commissioned in 2006 by the charity into modern childhood.

The rationale behind The Good Childhood Inquiry was that despite the 2003 Every Child Matters programme, unacceptable levels of disadvantage, poverty and social exclusion remained. Children's experience of childhood was changing rapidly, due to technological, demographic and cultural developments. It was felt that an inquiry into childhood would help The Children's Society and others understand how to respond to these issues in a way that supported children and young people.

The Inquiry's report, A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age [8], was published in 2009 and received considerable media coverage, including from the BBC[9]. It found that 'excessive individualism' is causing a range of problems for children today, including family break-up, teenage unkindness, unprincipled advertising, too much competition in education and acceptance of income inequality.

To address this, The Children's Society developed a new strategy and operational framework based on its governing objectives and the seven themes of the Inquiry report: Family, Friends, Lifestyle, Learning, Health, Values and Inequalities. Each has its own aspiration statement and together these represent The Children's Society's vision of a good childhood for all children.


Current campaigns


The Children's Society has joined forces with Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) to campaign for an end to the immigration detention of children. In December 2010, the Government set out a timetable to end the practice of detaining children in immigration centres.

End Child Poverty

Together with more than 150 other organisations, The Children's Society is calling for the eradication of child poverty in the UK.

Past campaigns

Hundreds and Thousands of childhood memories

Gathering childhood memories from members of the public to build up a picture of childhood over the years, to see what can be learnt from past experiences so that today's children can benefit from them.

Safe and Sound

Calling on the Government and local authorities to ensure that young runaways and children at risk on the streets receive the assistance and support they need.

Giving disabled children a voice

Campaigning to establish a right for all disabled children placed away from home to have access to an independent advocate.

Games Up

Campaigning for children (minors) involved in commercial sex to be treated as victims of abuse rather than as criminals (prostitutes).

Fundraising events

Walk & Explore

The Children's Society organises a number of Walk & Explore events which, as well as raising funds through sponsorship, enable participants to explore major landmarks and discover hidden treasures in some of England’s most historic towns and cities. The charity also provides a specially designed pack, and a supporter hotline, for those who wish to organise their own events.


The Children's Society's annual Christingle appeal invites supporters hold a candlelit celebration, during which participants receive a Christingle. This is made of an orange, a lighted candle, a red ribbon and sweets on cocktail sticks, each part acting as a symbol of the Christian faith.

My Life 4 Schools

My Life 4 Schools is a free online teaching resource for Key Stage 2 pupils (aged 7–11) developed by The Children's Society. It was developed to support teachers to deliver curriculum-linked topics in line with government policy, and in support of the themes emerging from The Good Childhood Inquiry. The resource includes lesson plans, animated case studies, interactive activities and downloadable activity sheets.


  1. ^ The Children's Society's Charity Commission entry
  2. ^ "A Brief History of the Waifs and Strays' Society". Hidden Lives Revealed. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  3. ^ Still Running: Children on the Streets in the UK. The Children's Society. 1999. ISBN 978-1899783311. 
  4. ^ Ed. David Barrett (1997). Child Prostitution in Britain: Dilemmas and Practical Responses. The Children's Society. ISBN 978-1899783021. 
  5. ^ The Children's Society Annual Review 2009-10
  6. ^ The Children's Society Annual Report 2009-10
  7. ^ The Children's Society website
  8. ^ Richard Layard, Judy Dunn (2009). A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-141-03943-5. 
  9. ^ Easton, Mark (2 February 2009). "Selfish adults 'damage childhood'". BBC News. Retrieved 16 September 2009. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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