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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 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:
The Children's Society works towards these objectives through research and campaigning, and through a network of programmes throughout England which support:
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 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 by the provision of children's services (under contract from central government and local authorities) 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 Children's Society's current governing objectives and strategy are based on the findings of The Good Childhood Inquiry, 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, 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.
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.
Seriously Awkward 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.
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 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.