Our History

In 1891, we helped a child...

First child helped by Child & Family Services"This is the first child received by the Michigan Children's Home Society. Abandoned by her unfaithful mother and turned into the street, she was picked up by a member of a Local Advisory Board of the Michigan Children's Home Society and taken to the residence of the then State Superintendent, Amos Barlow. The small picture shows her condition when received by the Society on September 28, 1891. She was ragged, filthy and infested with vermin. After being transformed into a clean and comfortably dressed child, she was placed in a good home where she grew up amid favorable circumstances. The large picture shows her grown up - a "well educated, self-supporting, young woman - a living monument to the Society which has watched over her all these years." - Anniversary Brochure 1985, CFSM Inc.

Established in 1891 as the Michigan arm of the American Education Aid Association, The Michigan Children's Home Society (now Child and Family Services of Michigan, Inc., State Office) was founded by a small group of citizens with initiative and compassion for the then numerous homeless and neglected children of Michigan.

Tracing Our Roots

Child and Family Services of Michigan had its earliest beginning in 1883 in Illinois. Chicago Reverend Martin Van Arsdale was convinced that there was a better way to provide for homeless children than through the orphanage or children's home. He and his wife believed that every child was entitled to the security of a family, home and the love of parents. They knew that good homes could be provided if the right methods were found to bring children and childless homes together. As a result, the American Educational Aid Association was founded, with the objective of developing a solution to the child welfare issue.

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Similar movements in other states resulted in the establishment of a Federation of Aid Associations or Societies in Chicago. In 1891 Michigan became the fifth member, when Dr. Amos Barlow of St. Joseph was appointed as the first Michigan Superintendent of The American Educational Aid Association (incorporated 1893). Joseph Watkins, having become interested in the purposes of the young agency, donated two large lots on the outskirts of St. Joseph in Berrien County and in 1894 a "Receiving Home" for children was built. Initially, all children were brought to the Receiving Home to be cared for until permanent arrangements for their future could be made. The ideals of this new organization became more sharply defined and, in 1895, its name was changed to the Michigan Children's Home Society to better emphasize the non-institutional nature of the program.

Dedicated to the conviction that a child's successful development depends upon loving family care, adoption and foster care services were established as alternatives to orphanages. Since that time the agency and/or its member agencies have been licensed annually to receive, care for and place children in accordance with state law.

Dr. Barlow retired as the superintendent in 1906 and was succeeded by Mrs. Cora Lamping. Under the leadership of Mrs. Lamping, the young Society was kept keenly aware of the negative effect even short-term institutional care had on children while they awaited adoption placement. A system of boarding children with private families, accompanied by frequent visits by social workers, was initiated so children could be given individual care prior to permanent placement. Through this plan, the Society pioneered foster care in Michigan. A few years later, in recognition of the benefits of keeping families together whenever possible, the Society implemented a system of financial aid to parents and relatives to help prevent separating children from their natural families.

Reverend Albert Stoneman succeeded Mrs. Lamping as State Superintendent in 1913 and, prior to his resignation in 1929, guided the Society through its greatest period of organization and expansion. To more effectively promote the Society's work, branches were opened in 1913 in Detroit and Grand Rapids. In 1916 a new headquarters and receiving building was dedicated in St. Joseph, made possible by a $20,000 bequest from Charles A. Chapin formerly of Niles, who was for many years a benefactor of the Society. Later known as Chapin Hall, the building was erected on property previously donated by Mr. Chapin, and  contained facilities for the reception and temporary care of children, orthopedic surgical services, and the administrative headquarters for the organization. Subsequently, and for many years, Chapin Hall served as a group care facility for adolescent girls.

Historical Photo - Child & Family ServicesGrowth of the Society paralleled the growth of social work that followed World War One. Community funds were established in many Michigan cities, and additional branches were organized in population centers where child welfare needs were greatest. Between 1917 and 1920 new branches were established in Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Flint, Lansing, Marquette, Pontiac and Kalamazoo. Investigation of child need cases, foster care, adoption, and supervision and casework services were provided to children in their own homes. In 1921, the name of the organization was changed from Michigan Children's Home Society to Michigan Children's Aid Society (MCAS) in an effort to make even clearer to the public that the word home in the title did not indicate institutional methods of child care. The name change was to also emphasize the aid and reconstruction of families that would enable the return of many children to their original homes.

In 1929, Fred R. Johnson succeeded Rev. Stoneman as State Superintendent. Mr. Johnson, whose tenure of 25 years was a Society record, had the difficult task of leading MCAS through the depression and the Second World War. During that time staff and financial expenditures were drastically cut, while caseloads increased due to the many problems of the time. New branches were established in Traverse City and Jackson during Mr. Johnson's administration, which ended in 1953.

Historical Photo - Child & Family ServicesIn the early years of the Society and prior to the depression, the main source of operating funds came from memberships, contributions, reimbursement for child care, community chests and county allocations. The depression drastically affected these sources of income. However, the Children's Fund of Michigan, founded by the Honorable James Couzens, took up much of the loss with an initial grant to the Society in 1929 and continuing with substantial annual grants until dissolution of the Fund in 1954. Several other funds and foundations, including the Rackham Fund and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, provided substantial support.

A significant era in the Society's history ended in 1951 with the death of President Edwin S. George. Colonel George was an active trustee and staunch supporter of the Society from its early years and was in his twenty-fifth year as Society President at the time of his death. It was at this time an extensive study was undertaken by Myrtle R. Ruel with the backing of the Michigan United Fund and the Michigan Welfare League. The study was significant in that it integrated past history and development with an analysis of society's problems and needs of the time. Long range growth projections and recommendations for the Society were made on the basis of the study's data.

Robert Barstow became State Director in 1953, one year before the last grant from the Children's Fund was received. The agency's primary problem at that time was financial and an application was made to the Michigan United Fund (MUF). The first MUF allocation came in 1955 at which time, by agreement with MUF, the Society withdrew from many local community chests. With this new pattern of financing, MUF was asked to support MCAS services in seventy-five of Michigan's counties, while the seven financially autonomous branches of MCAS relied on their local community chests.

As the Society's growth continued, and its services to all sections of the state increased, the trustees found that for administrative purposes the Chapin Hall headquarters was not located to the best advantage. As a result, the main office was moved to Lansing in 1922, then to Detroit in 1926. Beginning in 1965, branch offices began merging with their local family service agencies. This expanded the orientation of Child and Family Services of Michigan, Inc., to more of a complete family concept. In 1963 the headquarters moved to a property in Farmington donated by Edwin S. George, and again relocated in 1973 to Brighton. In 1987 the agency moved to a location in Okemos, that was dedicated to the memory of former Board President, Walter S. McLean.

Child and Family Services of Michigan, Inc., State Office is a key administrative resource for its local offices. It is currently the only private, statewide, child and family service agency in the nation. For more information, please call or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. our office.

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