CHILDREN 1ST owes its existence to a little American girl called Mary Ellen who lived during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Eight-year-old New Yorker, Mary Ellen, suffered terrible violence and abuse from her adoptive parents. She was discovered by a church worker who tried to persuade the police and other authorities to do something to protect the girl. An absence of laws to allow intervention left the agencies powerless to help.
Animals of the human species
In desperation the church worker turned to the New York Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Their officers went to Mary Ellen's house, removed her, and successfully prosecuted the adoptive parents, citing cruelty to 'an animal of the human species'. Until Mary Ellen's lawsuit, the law treated children as their parents' property; parents could do as they wished to their child.
As a result of Mary Ellen's case, the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was established in 1875. In 1884, the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was established in London. Branches were set up throughout Scotland and in 1889, the Glasgow and Edinburgh branches joined to form the Scottish National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
In the same year of 1889, the first Act of Parliament for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was passed. This Act, commonly referred to as 'the Children's Charter' was a result of five years lobbying by supporters throughout the UK.
In 1921 the Scottish National Society received Royal Charter and became the Royal Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (RSSPCC).
Initially set up to rescue children living rough and begging on the streets, the Society became better known for investigating child abuse and neglect. In the past the Society's Inspectors, often referred to as the 'Cruelty Man', investigated cases of abuse and neglect reported by the general public
In 1968 new legislation gave responsibility for investigating child abuse to local authority social work departments. As a result, the role of RSSPCC changed. It was some years before the charity changed its name to reflect this change in role, adopting the name CHILDREN 1ST in 1995.
Since then, we have grown and developed the services we offer children and their families across Scotland.
Although much of our work is very different from those early years, we continue to rely on public support for much of our work and always put children and their families at the heart of what we do.