Boys and Girls Aid Society was founded on April 4, 1892, by Rev. A.W. Clark and his wife, Anna. The organization’s initial focus was on providing care for neglected and abandoned children, providing services out of an abandoned stable at 18th and St. Mary’s (506 S. 18th Street).
From the Omaha World-Herald: “Aside from the moral aspect of the question, as an item of taxes, if Mr. Clark rescues and turns even two boys from their course towards the penitentiary and mold them into good and industrious citizens as shown by statistics, every dollar invested in this work would save the people two in taxes. As a cold business proposition, we can afford it. As a tribute to a splendid man who is laboring to prevent neglected boys and girls from taking the wrong road, we shall feel happier for the aid extended. Don’t forget him in your own time and in your own way.”
From the Omaha World-Herald: “A long felt want in Omaha is now to be met by the day nursery for babies at the Child Saving Institute, 504 South Eighteenth Street. The Creche never receives a child under the age of 1 ½ years, No Institution or society has undertaken to provide a day nursery for babies. A mother recently came to Mr. Clark and explained that she would be compelled to give up the struggle to support her children unless she could find a place to leave her baby during the day while she went out to work. Many mothers are similarly situated.”
CSI moved into a property at 18th and Ohio Streets with a capacity to care for over 500 children.
CSI and Rev. Clark advocated that a special hospital should be available for children’s cases. CSI began renting rooms in the neighborhood to handle overflow, while tents were erected in the backyard of CSI as a place where babies can spend the warm months – a site known as “Summer Camp.”
Rev. Clark resigned after 14 years due to his son’s illness.
“My son, Alfred, collapsed mentally and physically four years ago, since which time he has been nearly two years in sanitariums. Last year, he spent several months in Colorado, and he was considerably improved. Mrs. Clark and our four other children are already in Colorado and my resignation goes into effect May 1st.”
In a letter, Clark explained the reasoning behind his return:
“The Child Saving Institute is in sore straits. With no income for months, it has contracted bills, some more than six months old, and is now owning from $1,800 to $2,000, and with no support in sight for the future.”
“I’ve come back to Omaha to raise the money to cover the debt on the institute.”
In an interview, Clark was asked, “What would be the result, Mr. Clark, if the money were not forthcoming?”
“Oh, well,” he said. ”There is no such contingency, and I haven’t thought of it. I’m going to get the money.”
Later that year, Clark discussed the generosity of the Omaha community in response to CSI’s need: “I am convinced that the Omaha public is the most generous public I have ever had to do with.”
When Rev. Clark demanded more space for CSI, George Joslyn offered a $25,000 pledge if CSI could secure $50,000 in matching from community. This was the largest charitable gift in the State of Nebraska. As a result of the campaign, 2,000 citizens made donations.
CSI’s new orphanage was completed at 42nd and Jackson Streets, formally opening on May 11th, 1911.
CSI contracted with Omaha hospitals to send their advanced nurses for training.
Two CSI children died in the Easter Tornado, as well as five employees. CSI served as emergency hospital for “West Omaha.”
CSI became part of the National Benevolent Association – the mission arm of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). As part of the transition “Women will now help manage the institute on the Board of Directors.”
Ernest K Coulter, founder of Big Brother Big Sisters, was quoted as saying (of CSI), “It is best of kind in the country. It is a remarkable institution.”
Comments by the Director of the Russell Sage Foundation, an organization dedicated to the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States,– “Child Saving Institute One of the Best in the U.S.”
“In other institutions the fact that babies come from young and healthy parents does not save them. Only your thorough persistent and scientific methods have saved the lives of your babies.”
Despite the challenges presented by WWI, articles from this time shine a light on CSI’s persistence and efforts to help families in need.
A poem about Mrs. A.A. McGraw, Chairman of Nursery Committee of the Child Saving Institute, was published in the Omaha World-Herald.
It must be fine to have a heart
So big that when you’re miles apart
The howl of lonesome babies makes
You have all sorts of pains and aches
And calls you whore those infants squawk
In language Just as clear as talk.
The Institute where she is boss
Is quite a long way from McGraw’s
But any hour of day or night
When helpless babes aren’t doing right
This goodly woman hears the cry
And bents it thither, all on high.
How many kids with mother none,
When all this stuff is said and done,
Will never know, when they are grown,
This pal who helped them, all alone,
in hours of dark and stilly night-
Who heard their cries of pain or fright!
Alice Scott named Superintendent. Scott moved from Wichita to Omaha to accept the position. Her appointment was announced by CSI board president Howard Saxton.
Reverend Clark died on April 28, 1938.
CSI celebrates its 50th anniversary.
CSI was growing quickly. These minutes from a 1947 Board of Trustees meeting discuss the organization’s expansion. “Child Saving Institute to be enlarged.”
10,000 babies served with some 2,000 placed for adoption. This year, CSI celebrated its 60th anniversary.
A program of volunteer “baby rockers” began with 20 to 30 women coming to CSI three at a time, five days a week, to give individual attention to the babies for two hours.
CSI closed its temporary shelter care program, which provided service for 50 years.
CSI celebrated 75 years of service.
CSI’s maternity home was closed due to decreased need.
The first infant childcare center in Nebraska was developed by CSI, led by the efforts of Eloise Dillon. This was the beginning of CSI’s childcare center.
The agency moved from the orphanage at 42nd and Emile to its fourth home at 421 North 40th Street.
CSI’s Single Parent Program began. A 1973 article quotes the United Way describing the program: “The program providing infant day care for single parents and the single parent residential program are badly needed and well run. The agency is flexible and willing to experiment.”
Homes for Black Children began, a program to support and encourage the adoption of Black children in the community.
CSI bought the Safeway Building and moved to its current location.
CSI merged with the Children’s Crisis Center and the Parent Assistance Line.
CSI and Omaha Public Schools received funds from an Innovations in Education Grant for the School and Family Enrichment (SAFE) program.
A grant from Lozier allowed CSI to initiate its first computer system.
The agency sought and was awarded accreditation for its services by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Children and Families (COA).
CSI’s foster care program began with just 12 foster families, growing to over 100 families during the next 10 years and serving countless Omaha children and youth.
With the help of many dedicated volunteers and staff, Child Saving Institute’s Nebraska City Cottage was opened. This emergency shelter provided shelter for up to12 children ages 18 and younger, serving 17 counties in Southeast Nebraska.
CSI continued to innovate and provide cutting-edge services to children and families. The organization opened a new therapeutic preschool and a school-based mental health program. CSI also launched a new initiative to prevent child abuse and neglect.
CSI left National Benevolent Society, becoming its own “stand alone” agency in January 2003, ending the 90- year relationship.
Therapeutic childcare program KidSquad, which offers mental health and early childhood education consultation services, was developed.
Nebraska Heart Gallery, which sheds light on adoptable children in the Omaha region, began.
Renovation was completed on the current building located at 45th and Dodge Street in Omaha.
CSI earned national designation as a certified nature explore classroom, becoming one of the nation’s first nature explore classrooms.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CSI pivoted vital services where possible to provide remote support when unable to meet in person. During the duration of the pandemic, from February 2020 through the end of 2022, CSI’s doors remained opened and operations continued.
CSI received a federal grant to launch the family empowerment program, which branched services into providing support for survivors of domestic violence.
CSI celebrated 130 years of supporting local kids and families with heart and humanity.
CSI Board of Directors approved Campaign for Hope capital campaign budget to launch CSI’s largest capital campaign in the organization’s 130-year history, and CSI took steps forward to make the $46M campaign a reality.
CSI celebrates the Campaign for Hope groundbreaking event and announced a historic donation from the Heider Family Foundation.