The Foundling Hospital to Coram – 275 years of helping children

  • 10 April 2014

Pledge: “My great, great, great grandfather was a child of the Foundling Hospital. As a baby he lived with a foster family in Kent and then to the local branch hospital. He had a long & happy life.” Helen

The world was a very different place when the first children entered the Foundling Hospital in the 1700s. Their mothers brought them to the Hospital to be cared for, in the hope they would one day see them again. The new Foundling pupils were baptised and given a new name. Children born out of wedlock suffered huge prejudice, and it was thought that a completely new start would give them the best chance of a good life. They were placed with foster families until the age of five and then brought to live and be educated in the Foundling Hospital until the age of 15, many being trained for domestic or military service.

Following the 1948 Children Act, which changed what children need from charities, children were taken back by birth mothers or found homes with foster parents and the residential Foundling Hospital closed. The charity evolved to begin pioneering work in adoption, early years and parenting from our original London site, developing new approaches to childcare and education, informed by developments in child psychiatry which highlighted the importance of children’s emotional wellbeing and need for secure family placement.


Pledge: “Quite simply, if the Foundling Hospital had not helped my father 100 years ago, I would not be here today, and my own children would never have been born. Thank you, Thomas Coram.” Eleanor.

For those born after the Second World War, it can sometimes difficult to understand some of the attitudes held by society in the first half of the 20th century, when the Foundling Hospital was providing institutional care, as explained by Roger Bullock, Fellow, Social Research Unit at Dartington and Roy Parker, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy, University of Bristol (see ‘social context’ link below).Experiences of some of those former pupils, such as the separation from foster families, corporal punishment and emotional deprivation can seem shocking now. However, when viewed in the context of the time, they were not as unusual as might be thought. In the first half of the 20th century infant mortality was high, and children were commonly sent away to school. Until the 1960s, the regimes of most schools, including the well known public schools, were spartan and rigid. The repression of emotional feeling was considered a virtue. In this context, the regime of the Foundling Hospital would have seemed ‘normal’ to many.

Today, Coram helps a million children and young people every year. We help children and young people develop their skills and emotional health, find adoptive parents and uphold children’s rights. But many more children need our help.

Coram has launched a pledge campaign to spread the word about our work. Many of the individuals and families Coram has helped, through the Foundling Hospital and today, are lending their support by adding messages to our pledge wall:

Pledge: “Having 3 adoptive children, 2 of whom were adopted from Coram, I cannot begin to describe how the continual support and understanding from Coram has allowed our children to flourish.” Sarah

Pledge: “My father was a Coram boy. Being taken there in 2012 and I have supported the work of Coram as a result after their help in tracing his parents 75 years later.” Ron

Pledge: “I have adopted two beautiful boys through Coram. With their help our boys have a safe, secure, loving home and my husband and I can pour out all the love we had stored up on our boys. Thank you Coram.”

Please add your message of support and read other pledges, including those from celebrities Richard E Grant, Lisa Faulkner and the new ‘Dr Who’ Peter Capaldi, by clicking the ‘pledge wall’ link below.

Join Coram’s Pledge Wall

 The Foundling Hospital and historical social context