Orphan Train

From 1854 to 1929, 250,000 abandoned or orphaned children in East Coast cities found themselves on journeys across the country. Shepherded by private organizations like the New York Foundling or the Children’s Aid Society, these orphans were resettled with families who promised to give them shelter, an education, and a place to grow up. It was an ambitious, unprecedented undertaking. It was the predecessor to our country’s modern foster care system. The experiment became known as The Orphan Train movement.

A desperate solution to a desperate problem, some of the stories turned out well and some far from well.

Listen to the podcast and learn more at Mobituaries. 

Guest Post by Sister Carol Barnes

Nun and Baby

150 years ago today, on October 11th, three Sisters of Charity moved into a brownstone on East 12th Street in Manhattan in order to provide a safe haven for infants who were being abandoned during those difficult days. Initially, the Sisters expected to have 2 or 3 months to prepare their home for this purpose but within 24 hours, a faint cry alerted them to the fact that a new born girl, Sarah H., had been had been placed on their doorstep.

The community grew quickly, not just with children (126 babies were placed with the Sisters by the end of 1869), but also with wet nurses who provided nourishment for the children.

Sr. Mary Irene Fitzgibbon

To meet the needs of the growing community, the Sisters acquired the 68th Street property which provided adequate space for the new programs which evolved: St. Anne’s Maternity Hospital, St. John’s Pediatric Hospital and St. Mary’s Maternity Residence for single pregnant women. In addition, two hospitals for tuberculosis patients, both children and adults, were opened in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. All of this was accomplished under the direction of Sr. Mary Irene Fitzgibbon, the Foundling’s first administrator, in the course of the first 25 years of its existence.

Boy with Stuffed AnimalToday, The Foundling continues to expand, and in the spirit of the early sisters, responds to emerging needs, developing new ways of having a positive impact on the lives of children, youth, adults, families and communities.

Throughout these 150 years, the Sisters of Charity have continued to guard The Foundling’s Mission; currently, the Sisters of Charity Ministry Network carries out this critical responsibility through the exercise of its reserved powers.

As a representative of the Sisters of Charity, I am privileged to work with our incredible staff as we strive to integrate Mission into every aspect of The Foundling.

Learn more about The Foundling’s history:

The New York Foundling Book

The Foundling: The Story of The New York Foundling traces the legacy of our organization – from its founding in 1869 by the Sisters of Charity through the turn of the 21st century. Written by award-winning New York Times editor Martin Gottlieb with contemporary photography by renowned photographer Claire Yaffa, The Foundling provides an engrossing historical overview of our extraordinary organization.

Originally published to a limited run in 2001, the book has now been reprinted and updated for our 150th anniversary!

This updated edition includes all new photographs from Ms. Yaffa, a special message from Bill Baccaglini, President and CEO of The Foundling, and an additional chapter that continues our history through 2019.

Get your copy for a total of $60, including shipping and handling, by completing the order form below:

Sister Carol Barnes on Current News

“The Foundling — one of New York City’s largest and oldest child welfare and social services organizations — is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. It all began with one baby.”

Watch the news report and read more at Net TV.


“A major milestone for one of our city’s oldest and most important institutions. Find out how the New York Foundling is still helping children 150 years after it was founded.”

Watch the video, which includes an interview with our President & CEO Bill Baccaglini, at Metrofocus here.

Sister Carol Barnes

“The Foundling — one of New York City’s largest and oldest child welfare and social services organizations — is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

It all began with one baby…”

Read more at The Tablet here.