My family was introduced to the Children’s Aid Society by Melvin Seiden, a great uncle to my family and trustee to the charity. Although Uncle Mel wasn’t a parent, he was very dedicated to helping children all around the world.
Melvin was one of the few people in my life that I really saw as a difference maker. He used a great deal of his wealth, earned in his years as a stock broker and investor, for philanthropy, and spent much of his time serving remarkable charities. One of these was the Children’s Aid Society, which helps children in poverty to succeed and thrive. CAS operates in over 40 locations in New York City’s five boroughs and Westchester County.
Melvin was proud of his family’s continued commitment to the organization. Though Uncle Mel died of a brain hemorrhage in 2011, I am sure he would be happy with the support we have for a cause so dear to his heart.
When it comes to philanthropy, there are an awful lot of competing mouths to feed, especially in New York where two out of five children live in low-income families. Even so, the Children’s Aid Society continues to be a strong force of nature–the organization addresses children’s needs to help them thrive at every level, from prenatal care to post-college job training. In its 160 years of operation, it has been at the forefront of children’s services. It approaches these services proactively to enrich all aspects of a child’s development.
The Children’s Aid Society was founded in 1853 by Charles Loring Brace along with a group of social reformers. This was at a time when orphan asylums and almhouses were the only “social services” available to poor and homeless children, making Brace’s organization a radically progressive idea. Nonetheless, it translated into far-reaching services and reforms for poor children, working women, families in need and the disabled at a time when such services were rare.
Bruce was educated to be a minister, and from this background believed that children deserve a healthy alternative to life in the squalid slums of New York City. His theories were rooted in the belief that institutional care stunts children, as opposed to the provision of gainful work, education, and a wholesome family atmosphere, which lifts them. These concepts were first tested when the Orphan Train Movement was established to address an epidemic of homeless children, a relocation system that is now regarded as the beginning of modern Foster Care.
His work was transformative to social services, both in New York City and across the nation where his programs have been replicated. Millions and millions of children have benefited from his legacy, even as the concept of children’s rights and parental responsibility have changed over time.
Both Charles Loring Bruce and Melvin Seiden are men worth emulating; men that made a difference in more than just the usual way. Thanks to their generous spirits, countless children have brighter futures.
As a father and businessman local to New York City, the Children’s Aid Society continues to be one that I feel connected to on various levels. As a relative of Melvin, I feel that it is my duty to carry on his legacy; as a father, I feel that all children deserve opportunities to succeed; and as a New Yorker, I want the neediest in my city to gain the ability to rise above their circumstances. It is an honor to support the Children’s Aid Society, which has helped these kids for over a century and a half, and with our help, will continue to do so for many years to come.