Thomas Barnardo came to London, England from Dublin, Ireland in 1866 with the intent of preparing for a medical mission to China. But the sight of children sleeping in the streets and begging for food inspired him to set aside his mission plans and help the suffering children in his own backyard. He began with a school in the East End, but expanded into a home for boys, and which then blossomed into several homes and schools for boys and girls. His schools were based on Christian principles, but a sign proclaimed “No Destitute Child Ever Refused Admission.” He also helped overcome Victorian society’s concept of “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor.” A priority for Barnado was educating the children for a career, including household skills for girls, and training in seamanship for boys in Norfolk.
In 1887 he instituted a program of “boarding out,” sending children out into the country, and two years later, he added a program of boarding out babies of unwed mothers, with the mothers in household service nearby. He also began a settlement program for children in Canada, hoping to give them a fresh start. In 1882, the first of thousands of children left for Canada, and 30,000 had been given that fresh start by 1939. Children were not sent to Australia until after WWI but continued until 1967.
After WWII, the British government passed the Children Act of 1948, which nationalized care of homeless, impoverished and orphaned children, including a national registry. This act incorporated Barnardo’s and other private organizations under one umbrella. Today, Barnardos continues its work to protect and provide for children.
Fortunately for the family history researcher, Barnardo kept good records, dating back to their earliest years. They will search their records for a possible ancestor for a non-refundable fee, and if they find information, several packages are available for an additional fee. According to their website, “Funds raised through this service are reinvested in Barnardo's work with children and young people.” You can find information about the Barnardo’s Family History Service on their website.
The website also has a complete history of the program and is very informative.