Special Works in History

History of the Catholic Children’s Aid in Toronto

The St. Vincent de Paul Children’s Aid Society was organized in 1894 under Archbishop Walsh’s patronage. Remy Elmsley, a member of the St Vincent de Paul Society and son of John Elmsley , became President. Other members of the St Vincent de Paul Society became directors and Mr. P. Hynes became the working agent. Initially this new Society was run completely by the members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society but it became an independent agency known as The Catholic Children’s Aid Society.

By the turn of the Century, a span of five years, the association had counselled parents and hundreds of children. They had placed in homes 418 children who were orphaned, abandoned, neglected, or in trouble with the police.

Excerpts from a history document
Professor Murray W. Nicolson M.A., Ph.D.

This work although under separate management and independent of our Society, is very closely allied to it, and may justly be considered one of our Special Works. It has just completed the tenth year of it’s existence and the report of the board of management for the year is most satisfactory.
It states that the work is carried on by the agents of the Society, acting under instructions of the President and advisory board. He attends daily at the children’s court to see to cases brought before the magistrate and inquires into private cases brought to the attention of the Society. During the year 259 cases affecting the interest of 332 children were brought to the notice of the Society.

Through the work of the Society about 130 boys and girls have been committed to the two Industrial Schools with the best results morally and otherwise, under the guidance of the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
Report of the Central Council of Toronto 1904

Key Dates

1893. Archbishop of Toronto, J. Walsh, calls together a group of Catholic laymen to form an organization to address the “growing problem of orphaned and abandoned children.
1894. St. Vincent de Paul Children’s Aid Society of Toronto officially incorporated. One employee hired.
1932. First professional social worker hired.
1946. Name changed to The Catholic Children’s Aid Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
1950. Influx of immigrants from European countries greatly increases Society’s workload. As many as 100 babies a month being place for adoption.
1956. Name changed to The Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto and the Society’s catchment area extended to cover the Metro boundaries.
1960. Orphanages and Children’s Homes closed. Most children placed with foster families. Over 2,000 “unmarried” mothers served by the Catholic Children’s Aid Society, most of their children placed for adoption.
1970. Declining birthrate and gradual shift of population to suburbs decreased Society’s caseload.
1980. Tremendous increase in immigration in Toronto area from non-English speaking countries increases Society’s caseload and creates a need for workers to communicate in six different languages – English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Vietnamese.
1987. Society establishes a Foundation as a separate, non-profit corporation to raise funds for preventative programs the government is unwilling to fund.
1994. The Catholic Children’s Aid Society commemorates 100 years of service to families and children in the Catholic community.