Hidden Lives Revealed. A virtual archive - children in care 1881-1981 * Image of handwritten text

The Children's Union

Publicity flyer for the Children's Union
Publicity flyer for the Children's Union
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The Children's Union was founded in 1889 and had its roots in previous fund-raising activities such as school children offering to do some work for The Waifs & Strays' Society; and the Holiday Union, which supported a child for a year at the Society's first home for children with disabilities - the St Nicholas' Home at Tooting, London.

By the 1890s other homes were being supported, such as Bradstock Lockett at Southport, St Nicholas' at Byfleet, Saint Martin's at Surbiton, St Agnes' at Croydon, and St. Chad's at Far Headingley, Leeds.

Children's Union membership was open to people under the age of 21 and adults could join as associate members. In addition to fundraising, the members were encouraged to do practical work for the homes, such as making quilts or screens. Schools could also become members. The age limit dropped from 21 years old in 1905 to 18 years old in 1932 and then to 16 years old in 1958, before rising to 18 years old again by 1963.

From February 1890 The Children's Union had its own magazine Brothers and Sisters, with contributions from 'Uncle Edward' (Edward Rudolf, the founder of The Waifs and Strays' Society). It lasted until 1970, and after this date news that would have featured in it was included in the 'young interest pages' of Gateway, the magazine for Children's Society supporters.

In 1938 the remit of the Children's Union changed to include babies and children 'who may be described as crippled in mind'. By 1940 St Nicholas' and St Martin's Orthopaedic Hospital and Special School had become a War Emergency Hospital as the number of children needing its care had been falling. Money raised by the Children's Union now went towards the Society's Babies and Toddlers' Homes.

In 1971, because of changes in the Society's work, the support moved from being focused on cots to helping a specific nursery family. The Children's Union was also asking supporters to provide help for specific purposes, such as to feed a child. The following year saw the Children's Union come full circle: 'due to the continuing closure of nurseries, the committee decided that the money raised by Cot supporters should go towards the upkeep of handicapped children'.

The Children's Union operated with some independence from The Children's Society until the 1970s when it was brought more under the Society's control. The role of the Children's Union was also reviewed and it was found that the administration costs were high in proportion to the funds that it actually raised. In March 1979 the Children's Union Committee was replaced by The Children's Society's Education Advisory Panel which had been formed in 1978. At this point the Children's Union effectively ceased to exist and its work was continued by the Society's Youth Department.

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