115 years of doing good for Florida’s children
On November 17, 1902, Children’s Home Society of Florida first opened its doors as an orphanage to care for the growing number of children arriving on the infamous Orphan Trains that transported homeless children from the streets of New York City hoping to find families. The final stop was in Jacksonville, where more than 400 children arrived with nowhere to go.
Under the guidance of Rev. D.W. Comstock, CHS was established to address this pressing need. With a staff of two and a budget of $400, CHS cared for 34 children that first year, finding permanent homes for 21. It was the beginning of a 115-year legacy of providing solutions to society’s ever-changing challenges affecting children.
With an increasing demand for services, CHS grew beyond Jacksonville – and greater than an orphanage and adoption agency – in 1920, opening its first satellite office in Pensacola. Over the next 100 years, the organization’s presence and influence continued to expand, and the first office in Tampa Bay was established in 1958.
Over the past century, CHS has been the leader in identifying and addressing key issues facing children and families. While remaining true to its roots in adoption, CHS has evolved to also deliver early childhood programs, in-home solutions that stabilize and strengthen families, counseling and telehealth, foster care, and, most recently, the innovative community partnership school TM model that’s transforming outcomes in nearly a dozen Title I schools. Mort Elementary in Tampa adopted the model in 2016.
More than one million lives have changed because of CHS, including 1,200 every year in the Tampa Bay area. Annually, CHS builds bridges to success for more than 50,000 children and family members.
But CHS’ legacy of enacting change for children extends beyond service delivery, as its legislative influence helped establish child labor and compulsory education laws, and also played a pivotal role in the founding of the Child Welfare League of America, the agency now known as the Florida Department of Children and Families, the creation of Community Based Care, the privatization of child welfare that became the turning point for improved outcomes in Florida.
“Since our founding in 1902 as a single-site adoption agency, CHS has grown and evolved with each passing decade to remain the leader in addressing the shifting social needs of children and families,” said CHS President and CEO Michael Shaver. “Through the changing times, one constant has remained: our commitment to providing the right solutions at the right time to help more children realize their full potential.”
In Tampa and along the gulf, CHS is also providing safety and guidance while empowering youth to reach their full potential through Joshua House.