Mending Young Hearts & Minds Since 1833
1400 Whitney Avenue Hamden CT, 06517


In the early 1800s a woman, Widow Daniels, was dying.  She approached the leaders in her community and pleaded with them to care for her 3 children and infant after her death.  Her plea was answered in 1833 with the opening of the New Haven Orphan Asylum.  The Orphanage opened on Grove Street in New Haven and housed 7 children and was staffed by a matron.  In 1925 we moved to our current site on Whitney Avenue in Hamden.  Check out our timeline for more info about our fascinating history.

Timeline from 1833 to now

    • In the early 1800s Widow Daniels deathbed plea to the Reverend Harry Croswell and Dr. Jonathan Knight was that they care for her four children after her death and not place them in the Almshouse with the deranged and derelict.
    • Reverend Croswell involved ten ladies of the Trinity Church and others, and on February 26, 1833 at Franklin Hall in New Haven they formed a society, the “New Haven Female Society for the Relief of Orphan and Destitute Children”.  A committee of six “gentleman advisors” assisted the ladies with organizational plans and financial arrangements.  Their original constitution reads, “…The object of this Society is to adopt orphan children and such other as hall be in a friendless and destitute condition and to provide for their support and instruction until they shall become of a suitable age to be bound out in families.”
    • The Society collected dues from its members and began to host fundraising events.
    • April 25, 1833 an application was made to the Connecticut legislature for an act of Incorporation.
    •  In May 1833 the Asylum incorporated as The New Haven Orphan Asylum, the first private institution to care for dependent children chartered by Connecticut.
    • The Asylum’s first location was on Grove Street in New Haven caring for 7 children.
    • In 1838 a larger house was purchased on Oak Street, New Haven for $2000, allowing for 20 children to move into the new building.
    • The first “Donation Day” took place at the housewarming on Oak Street and became a citywide custom and the Asylum’s principal means of support for many years. Caravans of wagons paraded through the streets of New Haven collecting contributions of funds, food, fuel and furnishings for the orphanage.
    • 1854- With New Haven’s population swelling to 20,000, mostly because of an increase in the number of immigrants, the need for more space led to the move to a larger building.  A 6 acre lot was deeded to the Asylum by the city and a new building was constructed at a cost of $12,000 at 610 Elm Street, where the Orphan Asylum remained for 70 years (1855-1925).  48 children moved into the new building on Elm Street that was designed to accommodate 100 children.
    • The children rarely left the Asylum except for Sunday church services.  Elementary instruction was given in a 2-story brick addition with teachers and supplies provided by the New Haven Board of Education.  Even though the children were separated from the community smallpox infected many in 1856.
    • Bedtime prayers in the 1860s included “God Bless the Soldiers, God bless the sailors, God save our country.”
    • By 1865 there were 114 children living at The New Haven Orphan Asylum, 57 of them soldiers’ children for throughout the Civil War (1861-1865) no needy soldier’s child was turned away.  The war caused a burden on the orphanage because donations decreased as the cost of living increased. 
    • In 1866 the Gentleman Advisers of the Asylum sponsored “An Act for the Relief of Soldiers’ Children”, and is believed to be the 1st time in Connecticut history that a private social agency brought about constructive social legislation on its own initiative.
    • James Brewster was a generous donor to the orphanage and he helped inform the public about the important services being provided.
    • In 1875 William Reynolds arrived to the Asylum as a 4 year old. He proved to be a promising young person and was helped to attend Yale College, graduating in 1894 and from the Medical School in 1897.
    • By 1877 the concept of foster care was introduced. It was believed that the only safe child in a foster home was the child who was visited by the placing agency and so Mrs. Charles Candee, the Asylum’s pioneer social worker, set out to visit all the children placed into foster families.
    • In 1891 the Asylum opened the first kindergarten in New Haven. A special baby care department was also opened for children under age 5. The Asylum continued its practice of (in the custom of the times) placing out the older orphans of 11-12 years of age “at service” with relatives or area families.
    • In 1905 the custom of Donation Day ended after the City of New Haven deemed that the endowment fund of $30,000. And $2,000 from the city was sufficient to meet expenses.
    • In 1911 a committee hired a superintendent. The superintendent led positive changes that included: allowing the children to speak during mealtime, attempts to dress the children with more individuality, and outside activities.  Preventative health measures were increased and regular dental care and attention to mental health began.
    • In 1916 the first large fundraising campaign in New Haven was organized to raise funds to expand the Asylum once again. It was called the “Children’s Village Drive” and included songs, flyers, a whirlwind canvass of the city by businessmen and a huge thermometer on the New Haven Green to show the funds being raised.  Over $250,000 was raised.
    • World War 1 (1914-1918) impacted the orphanage’s plans as there was a shortage of steel and the property that was selected as the new location was needed to grow food. The children worked in the gardens.
    • In 1923 a convalescent unit was opened to care for crippled children and soon after cardiac cases as well.
    • In 1925 the orphanage finally moved to our current location, onto ten acres of land in Hamden, donated by the Brewster family.
    • An affiliation began with Yale for mental health and medical care
    • A consulting psychologist evaluated and treated children with behavior problems
    • During World War II (1939-1945), we provided temporary care for 19 mothers and 125 children who traveled to the USA from Oxford and Cambridge Universities to avoid the Nazi bombing raids during the Battle of Britain.
    • In 1943, during the polio epidemic, the convalescent unit was filled with post-hospital patients receiving the Sister Kenney Treatment. The unit remained opened for 34 years, closing in 1957.
    • In 1949 an on-grounds school was opened to respond to the needs of more and more children who were determined to be emotionally disturbed and have learning disabilities.
    • In 1965 a social worker was hired to recruit new foster families as this was becoming an increasing need in Connecticut.
    • In 1968 The Whitney Hall School was approved by The State Department of Education
    • In 1969 The Connecticut General Assembly voted to change the name of the New Haven Orphan Asylum to The Children’s Center
    • In 1981 the Center began providing day treatment for 12 children who lived at home but commuted to the Hamden campus 5 days per week for education and treatment
    • In 1982 Miss Rachel Trowbridge, a Board member for 59 years and a staunch supporter, died and left a substantial bequest. Her generosity boosted the endowment and propelled a Capital Campaign forward that resulted in the completion and renovation of various buildings on the campus
    • In 1985 a unique 45-day intensive outpatient program for 13 adolescents struggling with substance use opened as Wakeman Hall. The program thrived and expanded to include a continuum of services including outpatient and partial hospital. In 1992 the inpatient unit was forced to close as insurance companies began to manage treatment and refused to recognize inpatient treatment as a necessary level of care.
    • A satellite school opened, with 5 students, in 1990 in the basement of the First Congregational Church in Branford. This was the first of many schools that developed throughout New Haven and Fairfield counties.
    • In 1997 a $2.1 million Student Center is dedicated, representing the first new construction in 70 years at the Hamden campus. The Center includes a modern gymnasium, activity rooms, a spacious dining commons and kitchen.
    • In 1999 the Children’s Center created 3 separate legal entities, each with its own Board: The Children’s Center of Hamden, Inc., The Children’s Center Community Programs, Inc., and the parent organization; The Children’s Center, Inc.
    • 2000-2019
    • Shift towards treatment- expanded EDT, outpatient, documentation family involvement
    • Subacute
    • Respite
    • Trauma informed care
    • Gatehouse Group Home

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