Our History

Click on the dates below to read more about the milestones Children’s Home Society of California has accomplished during the past 125 years!


Dr. and Mrs. J. R. Townsend found Children's Home Society of California (CHS) to address the plight of California's homeless and abandoned children. They believe that children belong in homes, not institutions. Committed to that philosophy, the Townsends set out to assist homeless children in Los Angeles.

In 1891, the Townsends secure a charter from the American Education Society for placing "homeless children in childless homes." CHS incorporates in the counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Santa Clara.

CHS expands its operation...


CHS expands its operations to California's Bay Area. This leads to the establishment of additional offices and programs throughout the State of California.

Late 1800s to Early 1900s

There is little or no legislation regarding homeless children in California. Unprotected by laws, these children are placed in orphanages and almshouses.

There is little or no legislation regarding...


CHS wins a gold medal at the St. Louis World’s Fair recognizing its efforts for children. In its first 12 years, CHS has placed 568 of the 800 children it has taken into care.


Hiram Johnson is elected Governor of California and an era of active social legislation begins.

Hiram Johnson is elected...


Legislation is enacted to license child placement agencies, and CHS receives Permit #1 from the newly created State Board of Charities and Corrections.


Original Oakland office opens


CHS is among a select group of agencies from the Bureau of Exchange of Information asked to become founding members of the Child Welfare League of America.


CHS opens a shelter in Los Angeles for mothers and babies and adds 3 buildings to their complex of residential cottages.

Hollywood stars co-host...


Hollywood stars co-host the weekly radio series “Nobody’s Children,” which features children from CHS waiting to be adopted.


The start of World War II brought in even more homeless children, prompting CHS to expand by purchasing “The Big White House.” The large property allowed CHS to expand and improve services so that no child would have to be turned away.


CHS urges legislation to establish public adoption agencies, which passes, enabling county agencies to come into existence.


CHS sets up a training program in the Graduate Schools of Social Work at UC Berkeley and USC.

CHS sets up training program...


New 12,000 sq. ft. building opens in Oakland with clinic, examination rooms, adoptions, and housing for unwed mothers.


Since its creation and through the 1960s, CHS plays a major role in the field of adoption.

CHS is the largest private...


CHS is the largest private adoption agency in the world.


CHS places 2,012 in adoptive homes, making it the peak year for adoption services.

1970s and 1980s

CHS expands to a full range of child welfare services, including group home care, child day care, respite foster family care, and services to children living in stressful environments. This change is due to the agency's decreasing number of adoptions and society's increasing need for services for youths.


CHS wins an Oscar for its film, “Teenage Father.” CHS becomes a multi-service agency offering adoption, child advocacy, child day care, foster family care, group home care, parent/child counseling, pregnancy counseling, and public education.

CHS Headquarters moves...


CHS Headquarters moves to West 6th Street in Los Angeles.


Working parents create an escalating demand for child care. To assist in meeting this need, CHS shifts its focus to help families receive quality child care and development services. At the same time, CHS helps more child care providers enter the field, expand their facilities, and increase their standards and levels of professionalism.

Working parents create an escalating demand...

Late 1990s

Many parents enter the workforce as a result of welfare reform. This further increases demands on an already overburdened child care system. The need for quality child care is still so great it is called a “national crisis.”


CHS begins to reach out to more families and child care providers across the nation through the creation and expansion of our Family Education Program materials. Since the inception of the program, over 23 million of these colorful, easy-to-read, informative materials have been distributed to parents and professionals alike.

CHS completes a successful transition from...


CHS completes a successful transition from an Out-of-Home Placement Services agency to a Family Support Services agency.


Through an unsolicited grant, CHS's Family Resource Services launches the Family Nutrition Program through our San Diego office to address the growing childhood obesity epidemic. Using an individualized, strength-based, family-centered approach, the pilot program serves income-eligible families to create relevant, long-term change in the attitudes and behaviors toward nutrition.


Through our program development and revenue diversification efforts, CHS opens the Oakland Family Resource Center (FRC) in East Oakland’s Eastmont Town Center and expands our early learning and education programs to Yolo County.


CHS celebrates 125 years of caring for children and families across California. CHS joins other community organizations to form the Orange County Neighborhood Resource Network, a collaborative partnership dedicated to supporting and strengthening families in Orange County.

CHS Oakland celebrates 100...


CHS Oakland celebrates 100 years of caring for families.


At CHS, we strive to help vulnerable, or at-risk families become self-sufficient and build a strong foundation for the future. We continue to look ahead, building brighter tomorrows for children today.

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