Thousands of children – dirty, malnourished and alone – boarded the so-called orphan trains from the middle of the 19th Century until the time of the Great Depression, hoping to find families that would care for them. Shocked by their dilemma, the Rev. D.W. Comstock founded the Children's Home Society of Florida in Jacksonville in November 1902. He and a staff of two found homes for 21 children that first year, on a budget of $400. Less than a decade later, Marcus "Daddy" Fagg became the State Superintendent and guided the organization to leadership role in child welfare.
Each year, an individual is rewarded for his or her commitment to the organization's mission of protecting and healing children, and building and strengthening families. This year, Miami Law's Karen Throckmorton is the recipient of the Children's Home Society's Woman of Valor award. Throckmorton, a Lecturer in Law and the Director of the Miami STREET LAW program, has spent more than 15 years as a volunteer, a longtime Miami-Dade board member, and a past chair of the board.
"At each of Children Home Society's Pink and Blue Galas, we honor an individual or corporation who has demonstrated a relentless determination in advancing the mission of CHS of 'embracing children, inspiring lives,'" Executive Director Jackie Gonzalez said. "Karen has done this in her 14 years as a board member in a great number of ways, including the chairing of our board and the fostering of eleven CHS babies by her and her family. Karen is a remarkable woman who sees a need and takes action. She never waits for someone else to get it done; she is that person who gets it done. We are so fortunate that the work of CHS is one of the causes near and dear to her heart."
"The care for, and protection of, foster children has been a priority for my family for many years," Throckmorton said. "The award is undeserved but I appreciate the kindness. The over 500 foster children in the Children's Home Society system receive food, shelter, medical care, and access to education, which are basic needs which should be met."
The Orphan Train was a social experiment that relocated approximately 250,000 orphaned, abandoned or homeless children from crowded coastal cities to foster homes elsewhere. In the 1850s, it was estimated that some 30,000 children were living on the streets of New York City alone. Even before the Children's Home Society of Florida was founded, charity organizations such as The Children's Aid Society and The New York Foundling Hospital were established to help the children. The mass relocation of children on the orphan trains, according to Wikipedia, is recognized as the beginning of documented foster care in America.