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The Children's Society, also known as Church of England Children's Society, is an English charity (registered No. 221124) 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 nineteenth century by Edward Rudolf, a Sunday School teacher and civil servant in South London. 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 as an alternative to the large workhouses and orphanages common at that time. 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.
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.
A main feature of The Children's Society's work was its insistence that children should not become long-term residents in homes, but boarded out, fostered or adopted. By the late 1960s The Children's Society had become one of the largest adoption agencies in the country.
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 centralised care, fostering and adoption work and focused more on 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 family centres throughout the country offering services such as advice centres, play groups, youth clubs and short term accommodation for young, single mothers.
The charity's direct practice continues to target vulnerable children and young people, 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 its direct practice, and by the findings of The Good Childhood Inquiry.
The Children's Society was rebranded in 2014 by London-based design practice SomeOne from a logo depicting a purple figure reaching for a star to the current black & white identity. The new look reflects the charity's belief of confronting 'hard truths'.
The Children's Society has used its practical experience to support campaigns. For example, its work with young people on the streets culminated in a study in 1999, which called for a nationwide network of safe houses to be set up, and for statutory money to pay for them. This work also fed into a campaign to decriminalise prostitution for under-18s. The charity 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. Government guidelines followed in 2000, recommending that the police should treat the children as victims of abuse rather than as perpetrators of crime.
The Children's Society's vision is a country where children are free from disadvantage, its mission is to fight for change, supporting disadvantaged children to have better lives. The charity's two governing objectives are to:
In 2017, The Children’s Society launched a new strategy aimed at disrupting the cycles of multiple disadvantage that prevent young people from thriving by 2030; an ambition that directly supports the vision and mission. The charity has chosen to concentrate on the most marginalised young people aged 10-18 living with severe and multiple problems in their lives. The strategy focuses on using innovation to scale up impact through technology and learning, partnerships to leverage resource, and continuous improvement by becoming an agile and efficient organisation.
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 Children's Society's strategy explores the complex challenges in young people's lives by focusing on three areas: risk, resilience and resources.
The charity's income in 2016-17 was £41.6m. This was largely voluntary income donated by supporters (£20.6m). A further £7m was generated by the provision of children's services and £9.9m from charity shops. Investments and other income contributed an additional £4m.
In 2006 the charity commissioned an independent inquiry into modern childhood called The Good Childhood Inquiry. The rationale behind the 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, was published in 2009 and received considerable media coverage, including from the BBC. 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.
The charity went on to develop the Good Childhood Index in 2010 to provide an index of subjective well-being in relation to 10 aspects of life for children over the age of eight. The Children's Society produces an annual report based on the index in partnership with the University of York called The Good Childhood Report. This data is used by the ONS Measuring National Well-being Programme as the life satisfaction measure of personal well-being for children.
The 2016 Good Childhood Report shows a growing gap in happiness between girls and boys, with girls being particularly unhappy with their appearance. In 2017, The Good Childhood Report found that fear of crime was the biggest worry for children and young people, which was widely reported by the media. 
The Seriously Awkward campaign reveals that because of their age, the most vulnerable 16- and 17-year-olds are falling through the cracks of childhood and adulthood. They are being let down by the law and not getting the same basic protections as younger children to keep them safe.
The Children's Society's report Wolf at the door revealed that council tax debt can be a particularly frightening experience for care leavers. What can start out for many care leavers as falling slightly behind can very quickly escalate to a court summons and enforcement action being taken. The campaign asks councils to make care leavers exempt from paying council tax until they turn 25; giving these young people time to learn how to manage their finances and have a better chance at avoiding problem debt in the future. The Scottish Government and more than 80 councils in England and Wales have agreed to the exemption so far.
Working with Action for Children and the National Children's Bureau, The Children's Society report Turning the Tide published in 2017 found there had been Government cuts of £2.4 billion to funding for local children’s services, hitting the most vulnerable young people hardest. The charity is calling for more government funding for children's services.
Together with more than 150 other organisations, The Children's Society is calling for the eradication of child poverty in the UK. 19 November 2013, with relevant childhood experience, Misha B helped launch the charity's new Manchester initiative and raised awareness of more than 150,000 children living in poverty in Greater Manchester area.
The Children's Society is calling on the government to create an action plan for young runaways.
The Children's Society 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.
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.
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.
Campaigning to establish a right for all disabled children placed away from home to have access to an independent advocate.
Campaigning for children (minors) involved in commercial sex to be treated as victims of abuse rather than as criminals (prostitutes).
The Children's Society's annual Christingle appeal invites supporters to 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 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.
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