From the California gold rush, through the Great Depression, two World Wars and scores of other social changes, a local organization has prevailed and now is celebrating 145 years of service to Baltimore's families and children.

Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland, a private nonprofit organization that serves the needs of families and children, commemorated its founding yesterday by unveiling an exhibit in the George Peabody Library at The Peabody Institute that documents the organization's social work in Baltimore.

"We hope a lot of people will come share this with us," said Stanley A. Levy, executive director of Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland.

The exhibit -- a portion of the organization's archives -- gives a glimpse into problems facing families and individuals in Baltimore since the mid-1800s. The exhibit is free and will be on display until August. The memorabilia is the oldest known history of social work in Baltimore, organization officials say.

"A lot of the issues, believe it or not, are the same," said Caroline Jeppi, media relations coordinator for the exhibit. "Drug addiction, poverty, unemployment and incest were issues going on then. They just weren't talked about."

Items displayed date from 1849 to 1977 and include a donation book from Dec. 2, 1922, which cataloged collections of cornmeal, sugar, beans and candy. Dozens of photographs show workers, orphans and clients and several annual reports, including one from 1933, are on display.

A letter written in 1860 by a member of a predecessor society, who asked the residents of Baltimore to help establish a referral service, is also in the archives.

Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland has more than 20 offices in the metropolitan area and offers a variety of services, including a domestic violence program, family counseling and elder care.

The organization represents a merger of seven agencies, including its parent group, the Association for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor, which formed in 1849. The others included the Shelter for Aged and Infirm Colored Persons and the Charity Organization Society.

All records, legal documents, case files and photographs from the former agencies were stored in the organization's basement. They were donated in 1993 to the Milton S. Eisenhower Library of the Johns Hopkins University.

Joan Grattan, manuscript curator at the library, used the last two years to sort and prepare the collection for viewing.

"Records of this kind kept by Family and Children's Services were quite detailed and complete," Ms. Grattan said. "Collections of this kind describing charity work are quite scarce, and we think this is quite a rare collection for scholars and people interested in scholarly studies."

The archives, part of the library's special collections department, are contained in 64 boxes and can only be viewed with permission. Because some documents contain confidential information, such as personal case files, restrictions apply.

David G. Mock, a 15-year board member of Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland, is the son of the late Clark L. Mock, who retired in June 1967 after 25 years as executive director of Family and Children's Society. He remembers conversations with his father about discrimination against black social workers, adoption and the similarities between child and adult care.

"You're looking at the history of social work when you look at the history of Family and Children's Services [of Central Maryland]," Mr. Mock said. "I didn't know all of this material was available. I thought it was all burned or destroyed."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad