History

Seamen's Society for Children and Families was founded in 1846 to care for the abandoned children of sailors from the Port of New York. Since our beginnings, the core of our mission has been to secure the safety and well-being of New York City’s most vulnerable children and families.

1846
1846
The Society for the Relief of Destitute Children of Seamen is founded on April 2, 1846, in New York City at the Brick Church on Beekman Street. Mrs. Peter Stuyvesant is elected first Directress of the Board of Managers. Mrs. Stuyvesant, along with several “benevolent ladies” forms the Society to “afford relief and protection” for children, as well as “the proper arrangements for their health, comfort and education.”

The founders determine that Staten Island is the best place to locate the Society. After renting homes in Stapleton and Port Richmond, the Society builds a home in New Brighton. Twenty-four children are cared for in the Society’s first year at a cost of $1,800. A building to accommodate approximately 100 children is completed by 1852.
1846
1851
1851
The Society for the Relief of Destitute Children of Seamen is incorporated by an act of the New York State legislature.
1851
1858
1858
The Society participates in the “Orphan Trains” that are sponsored by the Children’s Aid Society, moving away from caring for children in institutional settings. The “Orphan Trains” transport older children to communities and farms out West where they can be taken into someone’s home and possibly learn a trade.
1858
1886
1886
The Society takes the first steps to move away from congregate care as older children are sent to a nearby public school. Attendance at neighborhood churches and Sunday Schools is also encouraged.
1886
1904
1904
President Theodore Roosevelt convenes a conference on children, and The Society for the Relief of Destitute Children of Seamen is cited as an example of progressive thinking on institutional childcare.
1904
1926
1926
After consulting the leading child welfare experts of the time, the Board of Managers decide that an institution for children is no longer the best plan of care. The existing home is closed and a smaller cottage for 10 girls, 11 years and older, is opened. Younger children, and those with special needs, are placed in foster homes. A second cottage, a home for boys, is opened in 1932.
1926
1933
1933
The agency discontinues financial aid to seamen’s families who become eligible for public assistance.
1933
1936
1936
The cottage for boys is closed and the first arrangement for medical services to children in care is made.
1936
1937
1937
Based on a need for the agency to remain “up to date and keeping with the times,” the agency’s name is changed from The Society for the Relief of Destitute Children of Seamen to The Society for Seamen’s Children.
1937
1947
1947
For the first time, children from families who are not related to seamen are served by the organization.
1947
1948
1948
The first African-American child is taken into care. According to records, “the Agency has never limited itself to deny care to any child because of race, religion, or creed.”
1948
1957
1957
The Society initiates a work-study plan for Social Work students from Fordham University and Columbia University to provide case work services while completing their studies.
1957
1958
1958
New York City institutes a reimbursement formula that enables the Society to increase the number of children provided with services.
1958
1961
1961
The agency hires a caseworker experienced in adoptions to expand its adoption services.
1961
1963
1963
The Board of Managers approves a Five-Year Plan designed to increase the number of children served each year until the agency reaches a total census of 250 children.
1963
1969
1969
The Family Day Care program is started on Staten Island.
1969
1976
1976
The agency opens an office in downtown Brooklyn to provide better access and services for children placed in foster homes in Brooklyn, Queens, and lower Manhattan.
1976
1981
1981
A unit is created within the agency to provide services for pregnant, parenting, and at-risk youth.
1981
1983
1983
The Runaway Youth program for teens is established on Staten Island to provide 24-hour crisis intervention and case management services, including volunteer Host Homes to provide emergency housing.
1983
1984
1984
The Preventive Services program is initiated on Staten Island, supporting families with children at risk of being placed in foster care.
1984
1987
1987
The Healthy Babies program is initiated on Staten Island to address the problems of low birthweight babies and high infant mortality rates.
1987
1991
1991
Healthy Families, a family rehabilitation program, is started to provide intensive preventive and treatment services on Staten Island to substance-abusing parents with a child at risk of foster care placement.

The Psychological Services department is started to provide mental health services to foster children and their families.
1991
1992
1992
Psychological Services provides child evaluations, sexual abuse validations, and family therapy. In addition, Supportive Services for Men, a partnership program with the Staten Island AIDS Task Force, begins providing counseling and therapy for HIV-infected and affected gay/bisexual men and their families, friends, and loved ones. The Sexual Abuse Clinic begins operating in 1996 to provide psychological services to child, adolescent and adult survivors of sexual abuse.

The agency’s Board of Trustees initiates the Annual Luncheon to recognize individuals who have supported the agency’s mission, and to raise private funds in the community.
1992
1996
1996
An affiliation with Staten Island University Hospital provides services, on-site at agency offices in Staten Island and Brooklyn, for foster children in care.

A new program called Community Services for Youth is initiated through a grant from the NYC Youth Bureau to provide career exploration and job preparation skills to youth.

The New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) approves the agency to operate a mother-child foster boarding home program.

The agency formally changes its name from The Society for Seamen’s Children to The Society for Children and Families.

The agency announces the formation of the Children’s Millennium Society, a campaign to increase the community’s support of the agency’s mission and services.
1996
1997
1997
The New York State Office of Mental Health approves the agency as a provider of Medicaid waiver services to children with Serious Emotional Disturbance on Staten Island, in coordination with the Jewish Board of Family and Children Services.

The agency is selected by the New York City Human Resources Administration to deliver a new program on Staten Island for victims of domestic violence. Through this, the agency provides case management, individual and group counseling, peer support and advocacy services.

The Board of Trustees adopts a Three-Year Strategic Plan to guide the agency’s growth and direction in the years ahead.
1997
1998
1998
The Friends of the Society is formed to offer individuals in the community new opportunities to support the agency’s mission.

To celebrate and recognize the agency’s historical roots, the organization’s name is changed to Seamen’s Society for Children and Families.

The Emergency Foster Boarding Home program is started up again at the request of ACS to provide emergency placement for children.

The Education Bound program is initiated to recruit volunteers to provide tutorial assistance to school-age children.

A scholarship program is created to provide financial aid to youth to attend college or vocational school. Scholarships are funded through private donations. The first Scholarship Awards Dinner is held to present the scholarships.
1998
1999
1999
An office is opened in Brownsville, Brooklyn, to provide access to foster care services for children and their families.
1999
2000
2000
The agency starts a Teen Pregnancy Prevention program. In the pilot program, 30 teenagers (ages 11 to 14) attend a weekly education seminar where they participate in group discussions about responsible parenting, goal setting, decision making, peer pressure, and self-esteem. This program is funded by a grant from The New York Community Trust.

The Board of Trustees approves the purchase of the 50 Bay Street office building to house the agency’s administrative offices and Staten Island programs.
2000
2002
2002
The Board of Trustees adopts a Three-Year Strategic Plan to guide the agency’s development.

A Capital Campaign plan is developed and approved by the Board of Trustees. Bob Fitzsimmons, President of Gateway Arms Realty and a long-time friend and supporter of the agency, agrees to serve as Chairman of the Campaign.

The Staten Island Bank & Trust Foundation approves a three-year, $225,000 grant for the Capital Campaign.
2002
2003
2003
The Richmond County Savings Bank Foundation approves a two-year, $200,000 grant, and the Independence Bank Foundation approves a $25,000 grant for the Capital Campaign. The fiscal year ends with over $550,000 pledged to the Capital Campaign.
2003
2004
2004
Seamen’s Society hosts its first Black and White Gala. The agency’s first website is developed.
2004
2006
2006
The agency reaches the $1,000,000 mark for the Capital Campaign.
2006
2007
2007
The agency adds an Aftercare program and a Foster Parent Support program.

The 50 Bay Street office building is chosen as a model project by the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation and is highlighted at a conference in Rochester.
2007
2008
2008
For the eleventh consecutive year, New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) awards Seamen’s Society the highest possible rating for the Family Day Care program. The agency also receives an “outstanding” commendation from ACS for its adoption work.
2008
2009
2009
Forward Through Education, a tutoring and mentoring program, is launched on Staten Island and funded by grants from the Hearst Foundation and the Staten Island Foundation.
2009
2011
2011
Seamen’s Society holds its seventh annual Black and White Gala, which honors foster parent Laura Graham and features former President Bill Clinton.

Seamen’s Society holds a reunion of its first scholarship recipients, who received their awards in 1998.

Seamen’s Society establishes a Facebook page.
2011
2012
2012
With the support of the Northfield Bank Foundation, the agency opens an English as a Second Language program.
2012
2016
2016
Seamen’s Society joins Twitter.
2016
2018
2018
The Seamen’s Society Scholarship program celebrates its 21st consecutive year. At the time of the awards event, 57 young adults from the scholarship program had graduated from college.
2018
2020
2020
The COVID-19 Pandemic. As offices and businesses close, or go remote, the agency remains open and adapts to the crisis. Thanks to early grants from New York Community Trust’s NYC COVID Relief and Impact Fund and the Robin Hood Foundation, the agency is able to maintain continuous services.

During the heart of the pandemic, Seamen’s Society serves as the only provider of Emergency Child Care services on Staten Island, caring for the children of essential workers as they do their jobs to help the city and its residents recover from COVID-19.
2020

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