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Family and Children's Society records

Identifier: MS-0360

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The collection spans the years, 1849-1977, and is a study of the Family and Children's Society and its predecessor agencies in Baltimore, MD. The history materials, office files, and financial records provide a remarkable record of more than a century of charity work in an American city. The collection does not include any references to the most recent merger completed in 1985 from which the Society became known as Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland.

The collection is large, approximately 100 linear ft., and it has been artificially arranged into 11 series and 7 subseries. The boxes which form Series 1 to 1l are numbered consecutively, Boxes 1 to 99.

(In June 1997, Series 11: Account Books was added to the collection. In Series 11 are bound ledgers and registers containing holographic financial records (1912-1965).

Wherever possible, the agency files have been kept intact and original subject headings have been retained. Some duplication may be noticed in various series, but this is due in part to the complex series of mergers and name-changes that required historical, financial, and legal data for each newly organized agency. Therefore items copied for the FCS may be found too in files of the FWA. A brief examination of the ledgers in Series 10 indicates that accounts were scrupulously maintained by the charities. Some financial information can also be found in the office files.

The first series is named for the Society as it existed until 1985 - Family and Children's Society - and contains the most current files until 1977. Series 1 is the largest series within the collection and has been separated into four subseries - Subseries 1: History; Subseries 2: Office Files**; Subseries 3: Statistical Records; and Subseries 4: Employment Records. Employment Records are closed to researchers until September 1, 2019.

**In Subseries 2 are minutes of the Case Committee. The Case Committee met separately or at times presented reports when the larger Board of Managers met. Photocopying of Minutes/Reports of the Case Committee is not permitted.

Series 2: Family Welfare Association is also a large series and has been separated into 3 subseries - Subseries 1: Office Files; Subseries 2: Case Files; and Subseries 3: Homemaker Files.

Photocopying of Case Files is not permitted. *Before allowing access to Series 2 Subseries 2 Case Files, a researcher is required to sign an access form agreeing to conditions related to privacy issues.

Homemaker Files are closed to researchers until September 1, 2019.

Series 2 through Series 9 are named for each of the agencies preceding The Family and Children's Society. The arrangement provides a separate study of each agency as well as a sense of the procession leading to the final mergers as the Family and Children's Society in 1945. The published annual reports in each Series are unique in this collection and give a perspective on the work and the financial resources of each agency during a particular time period.

The files in each of the series contain some of the following: correspondence, survey reports, committee minutes, district reports, statistics, published material, manuals, photographs, advertising, clippings, publicity, and legal documents describing mergers and property management. The published annual reports are filed at the beginning of each series named for that agency. The Container List provides the inclusive dates of the reports as well as a listing of all items in the collection.

For background information, it is very useful to examine the material in Series 1: Family and Children's Society Subseries 1: History. Filed here is the research material collected by Grace Sperow who had been associated with the Society since 1926. Miss Sperow's work was intended for a written history to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Family and Children's Society in 1974.

Several persons who were influential in the early years of charity work are represented in the collection including John Glenn, Amos Griswald Warner, and Paul T. Beisser. Most notable is Mary Richmond who began her career in Baltimore and later achieved national recognition for her contributions to the field of social work. Materials related to Miss Richmond are filed in Series 4: Charity Organization Society.


  • Creation: 1849-1977


Conditions Governing Access

The Johns Hopkins University is pleased to make available for research the records of the Family and Children's Society. This agency, currently known as the Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland, is the successor to several early, private social welfare agencies in Baltimore. As such, the records of this agency are sensitive and require special consideration to safeguard the privacy of individuals mentioned in these records. The bulk of the collection is open for research, and interested users must apply, in writing, for access. The application must be on official letterhead and address the following:

describe the purpose of the research project describe the intent, if any, to publish the findings describe the nature of the requested personal records describe the safeguards that the researcher would take to protect the identity of the persons mentioned in the records [NOTE: Masking the name is not sufficient. Other identifying data must be masked as well.] state that persons mentioned in the records will not be contacted directly but that the applicant will work through the Head of Special Collections

Before allowing access Series 2 Subseries 2 Case Files, a researcher is required to sign an access form agreeing to conditions related to privacy issues.

The Head of Special Collections will be responsible for reviewing applications and granting access. If access is granted, the letter of application becomes a contract, and a breach of any condition is a breach of contract.

Two classes of the Family and Children's Society records are closed to research for twenty-five years from the date of processing. These are the agency's general employment records (Series 1 Subseries 4) and the separate file of employment records (Series 2 Subseries 3) for the homemaker program. These records will be open for research on September 1, 2019. Photocopying of certain portions of the collection including Case Files (Series 2 Subseries 2) and minutes of the Case Committee, part of Office Files, (Series 1 Subseries 2) is not permitted.

Administrative History

The history of the Family and Children's Society, a Baltimore charitable organization, begins in the nineteenth century when it was left to the private sector to aid the poor and the sick and continues until the present when it has become a multi-service, United Fund supported agency. The early history includes notable persons of the period who organized relief and at the same time developed standards for social work as a profession. It is too an accounting of social problems facing a large and diverse population during periods of transition in America.

Charity organizations began developing at a time when a major demographic shift was occurring in American society. As industrialization began to replace an agrarian economy, many citizens left their rural communities only to find themselves unprepared to deal with urban life. Later events in the nation's history including wars and the Depression also caused similar de-stabilization in the society. Effects of society in transition are most affecting to those without adequate economic resources. Poverty, illness, addictions, and desertions left families bereft of the most basic needs of shelter, food, and fuel. Organization was required within the community to find appropriate ways to provide for citizens in need. Charity workers and reformers, mostly volunteers, were motivated to find help for a growing segment of the population.

Early reformers saw a correlation between morality and the economic condition, but as the work with clients advanced, these assumptions were challenged. As the theory and practice of social work evolved, more enlightened approaches were used to solve the problems of welfare.

In the 1970s, the Family and Children's Society prepared to celebrate its 125th anniversary, and staff members began researching what they referred to as their "roots in the past." They worked through a maze of mergers and name changes. A brief chronology is necessary to understand what is meant by the Society's "roots." The Society today is the result of a combination of predecessor agencies dating back to 1849.

The Association for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor (AICP), formed in 1849, was the earliest of the predecessor agencies. Mayor Elijah Stansbury of Baltimore called for five delegates from each of the city's wards to meet at City Hall to consider plans for an efficient relief administration. The AICP was the third of its kind to be organized in the United States (after New York City and Brooklyn, NY, separate municipalities at the time).

In 1881, Daniel Coit Gilman, president of The Johns Hopkins University, helped to found the Charity Organization Society (COS) modeled on a similar agency in Boston. Its purpose was not to give relief per se but to combine and develop all the charitable resources in the community into a single agency. Service to the client might include a referral to another agency, church, or individual, and it usually included the concept of "friendly visiting." Friendly visitors were to give personal service in the clients' homes - "to promote health, thrift, and to build up character." Service rather than relief was the philosophy of the early charity organizations.

Daniel Coit Gilman's association with the COS was important because it established a relationship between the Society and The Johns Hopkins University. Members of the faculty, doctors, and students served as district board members and friendly visitors. The Social Service Department at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, founded in 1907, was an outgrowth of the COS Medical Student Boards. Gilman was known for assembling a notable first faculty at the University, but the same could be said for those persons first associated with the COS. Among the members were Amos Griswald Warner, Mary E. Richmond, Mary Willcox (Brown) Glenn, John M. Glenn, and Dr. Jeffrey R. Brackett, and each one became known nationally for contributions to the development and practice of social work

Other agencies founded during this period provided specialized services for particular groups within the system: children, women, the African American population. (Some additional background information is given in the Series Description for each agency.) The Children's Aid Society of Baltimore became the Henry Watson Children's Aid Society in 1876 when Mr. Watson left a bequest that allowed the Society to expand its care of dependent children. The Shelter for Aged and Infirm Colored Persons was founded in 1881. The Electric Sewing Machine Society was established in 1891 to train poor women to become self-supporting. These smaller agencies were carefully managed, but after several decades it was recognized that combined resources and an allocation of public funds would be necessary to respond to ever-increasing needs of the community. Mergers were necessary, planned thoughtfully, and executed with careful attention to legal requirements. The organization grew larger with each merger. It is important to note that even when the agencies were separate, there was always a sharing of experiences and a collaboration in fact finding and planning.

A good working federation existed between the AICP and the COS. They were instrumental in bringing about legislation creating the Juvenile Court, compulsory school attendance laws, non-support laws, child labor laws, and licensing for boarding infants. The two agencies were formally incorporated as the Federated Charities (FC) in 1910. In 1911, the Legal Aid Bureau was organized as a department of the FC and remained so until it was separated as a single agency in 1929. During this period (ca 1900-1920), charity funding also became specialized and was administered by a single agency, the Baltimore Alliance (succeeded by the Community Chest in 1926). The Central Office of the Federated Charities was located in McCoy Hall of The Johns Hopkins University (Monument and Eutaw Streets). On November 19, 1919 a fire destroyed McCoy Hall, and many case records and documents were lost.

In the same month as the McCoy Hall fire, Federated Charities voted to change the name to Family Welfare Association. FC realized that its responsibility for organizing services was lessened, and its primary goal would be service to the family. Service included "securing medical treatment, finding employment, searching for missing husbands, straightening out domestic difficulties, instruction in household economics, and strengthening connections with church and relatives." Though it tried to retain the emphasis on service, the FWA was to become the main relief-giving agency during the emergency conditions of the late 1920s, early 1930s. Persons prominent in the Association during this period include Gaylord Lee Clark, Anna D. Ward, Doris Slothower, and Dorothy Pope.

Rehabilitative services were put aside during the early years of the Depression as the Agency struggled to aid families and at the same time to get the City and State to assume some responsibility. Gaylord Lee Clark, president of FWA in 1929, called upon the Governor to appoint a Commission to investigate the social welfare needs of the State. Along with the implementation of federal programs, this led to the present [MD] State Department of Welfare. When the Baltimore Emergency Relief Commission was set up in 1933 with a pipeline to federal funds, the FWA moved to resume its function, "the promotion of adequate family life through casework service."

Although emergency conditions prevailed, social work as a profession was advanced in the 1930s. Caseworkers began exploring new ideas regarding the psychology of human behavior, and community psychiatric services were tried. An innovative program was begun in 1929 by Doris Slothower - Junior Month for Southern Colleges. College juniors were invited to Baltimore and introduced to the field of social work in the hopes they would choose it professionally or serve as volunteers in their home communities.

In 1940, the Community Fund recommended a merger of four agencies. The Henry Watson Children's Aid Society and the FWA merged in 1942 (Annual Report, 1942). Briefly known as the Family Welfare and Henry Watson Children's Aid Society of Baltimore, the name more popularly was known as the Family and Children's Society. Final mergers joined the Society for the Protection of Children from Cruelty and Immorality and the Shelter for Aged and Infirm Colored Persons in 1943.

The Family and Children's Society emerged in 1943 as a multi-service agency. The best intentions of early charity workers were well met as the Society's service to families was expanded to include medical, foster care, housekeeping, marriage counseling, adoptions, home finding, group counseling, and community mental health.

The historical record of the FCS including all of its "roots" reflects the forward movement of charity work locally and nationally. Through achievement and professionalism, the agency moved from the determinism of the early friendly visitors to a very realistic assessment of Director, Ernest H. Smith [1960s] who spoke of both the "drudgery and rewards" for social workers in the present period.

In 1985, the Family and Children's Society merged with the Maryland Children's and Family Services and is now known as the Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland.


109.26 Cubic Feet (57 record center cartons, 11 letter size document boxes, 2 letter half-size document boxes, 6 legal size document boxes, 2 legal half-size document boxes, 1 flat box (25 x 21 x 3 inches), 34 oversize boxes (19 x 13 x 6 inches))

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

More information about Series 11-12 exist offline. Contact Special Collections for more information.


The records were given to the University by Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland in 1993. The Accession Number is 92-93.44.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Joan Grattan in June 1994, (Series 11 added June 1997). Series 1-10 reprocessed by Jordon Steele, November 2019-February 2020.

Family and Children's Society records
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA