Child & Family Services is one of the oldest nonprofit organizations in Southeastern Massachusetts. We began as the New Bedford Orphans’ Home in 1843 to help children left homeless and without families during the whaling era. There were children without parents, orphaned by mothers who died and by fathers lost at sea. There were children left to beg on the streets, often forced to steal to seek out their paltry existence.

Through continued fund raising, collaboration with other service agencies and the support of the community, the New Bedford Orphan’s Home weathered the last part of the 19th century and more importantly, was a good “friend” to homeless children.

As new theories about caring for disadvantaged children changed with the times, so did the New Bedford Orphans’ Home. By the turn of the century, “placing-out”* (what we call foster care today), was considered the best course of action for children in need. After much study and consideration, the decision was made to close the Orphans’ Home in favor of a placing-out system.

The children flourished under the new system. The women worked hard to identify homes where needy children would receive “not only food, clothing, and shelter, but also wise and loving care.”*

SINCE 1843:

  • New Bedford Orphans’ Home 1843 – 1910
  • New Bedford Children’s Aid Society 1910 – 1948
  • New Bedford Child and Family Service 1948 – 1999
  • Child & Family Services 1999 – Present

Our annual report of 1951-1952 points to the direction in which the agency was headed:

“The purpose of the New Bedford Child and Family Service is to strengthen family life. Counseling service is available to any family or individual with a family difficulty or personal problem. The Agency provides also temporary foster home care and adoption placement of children.”

In the 1970s, the agency added Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater New Bedford to our services. In 1980, the agency opened a mental health clinic and family support office in Fall River. In 1995 another was added on Cape Cod in Hyannis.

By 1999, our geographic footprint extended well beyond the borders of New Bedford. To signify this fact, the board voted to officially change the agency’s name from New Bedford Child & Family Service to simply Child & Family Services.

Through counseling, prevention programs, family support and psychiatry services, we are able to keep the commitment we first made in 1843 of helping those in need. Our mission remains: “…to heal and strengthen the lives of children and families.”

View the Historical Timeline of Child & Family Services (1843-2013) »

* Information and excerpts compiled from ‘Caring for New Bedford’s Children (1839-1949)’ by Mary Jean Blasdale, a book celebrating the history of  Child & Family Services.