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Finding Aid to the Family Service Agency of San Francisco Records, 1869-2010
SFH 50  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Provenance
  • Preferred Citation
  • Related Materials
  • Materials Transferred
  • Administrative History
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Family Service Agency of San Francisco Records
    Date (inclusive): 1869-2010
    Collection Identifier: SFH 50
    Creator: Family Service Agency of San Francisco.
    Physical Description: 4 cartons, 2 boxes, 4 flat boxes, 3 flat file folders, 5 framed plans, 1 oversize photo folders (10.0 cubic ft.)
    Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA, 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    Abstract: Admission and discharge ledgers for babies and children, minutes, miscellaneous correspondence and administrative records, program publications and ephemera, scrapbooks, building plans, and a small amount of photographs documenting the activities of the Family Service Agency of San Francisco from before its inception as Associated Charities in 1889 through its current role as a multiservice nonprofit agency.
    Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.


    The collection is open for research, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours. Please call the San Francisco History Center for hours and information at 415-557-4567.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.


    Gift of Robert W. Bennett, President and CEO of Family Service Agency of San Francisco, June 2009.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Family Service Agency of San Francisco (SFH 50), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

    Related Materials

    Researchers are encouraged to see also The Associated Charities of San Francisco : Annual Reports, 1904-1910 in the San Francisco History Center's book collection.

    Materials Transferred

    Photographs have been transferred to the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.
    Framed building plans have been tranferred to the Visual and Framed Art Collection, numbers 617-621.

    Administrative History

    Family Service Agency was founded in 1889 as Associated Charities, the first general, nonsectarian relief organization in San Francisco. It began as a charity organization society, coordinating with individual charities that provided direct relief and itself providing immediate temporary relief to families, while working to raise standards amongst all charities.
    From 1901 until her death in 1940, Associated Charities was directed by Katharine (Kitty) Felton, who was the driving force in the establishment of social welfare institutions and standards in social work practice, promoting cooperation among local private organizations and government agencies at the state and local levels. She was instrumental in creating the Charities Endorsement Committee (1902), a forerunner to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce; the Juvenile Court (1903); the State Board of Charities (1903), a forerunner to the State Department of Social Welfare; and the Community Chest (1922),a forerunner to the United Way and the United Bay Area Crusade. She also organized what has become the modern-day foster care system, advocating for placement of babies and children with private families instead of in institutions.
    In 1903, the Children's Agency was established as a branch of Associated Charities. The Children's Agency advocated for children and adolescents by investigating and working to change conditions in orphan and foundling asylums and by placing babies and children in foster homes. In 1908, the babies of the San Francisco Foundling Asylum were placed under its supervision, and foster homes supplanted the asylum for infant care of abandoned babies. As a result, infant mortality rate was cut from nearly 60% down to 3.28% by 1913, eventually dropping to less than 1 %.
    During the 1906 earthquake and fire, Associated Charities was temporarily merged with the Red Cross to provide disaster relief, working directly to feed and house residents. In June 1907, Associated Charities was re-established as a separate agency but continued doing relief work. Besides resuming its pre-earthquake duties, it conceived and coordinated the effort to convert refugee shacks to permanent housing and transport them from public squares to individual lots that residents leased or bought on installment.
    During the Depression, administration and funding of relief work and social work began to shift from private organizations to public agencies, and over the next two decades, the mission and scope—as well as the name—of Associated Charities fluctuated and shifted accordingly. In 1932, Associated Charities changed its name to Citizen's Agency for Social Welfare to reflect its increasing role as a social welfare agency rather than a charity. In 1933, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) required that federal and state funds be spent by public rather than private agencies; as a result, Citizen's Agency for Social Welfare continued to provide food relief, employment, and foster care placement as a contractor to the government. In 1934, the Board of the former Associated Charities reorganized as the Children's Agency. In 1938, the Family Service Agency was established as a separate organization, funded for its first 18 months by a grant from the Rosenberg Foundation and thenceforth funded by the Community Chest. Its purpose was to diagnose and treat short-term family problems. In 1945, the Children’s Agency and the Family Service Agency merged to become the Family and Children’s Agency, with a new administrative program for finding foster homes, closer cooperation with the juvenile court, and integration of children’s work with family service work. In 1949, children's services, foster care, and relief became part of the Department of Public Welfare, and in 1950, Family and Children's Agency discontinued its foster care and adoption programs. During the 1950s, the agency reorganized and shifted its focus from relief work and foster care to family counseling and advocacy. In March 1958, the organization's name changed again to its current name, Family Service Agency of San Francisco.
    In the 1960s, under the leadership of Executive Director Richard B. Rogers, Family Service Agency became more politically and socially active, taking positions on housing, poverty, juvenile justice, and other issues. It also invited direct participation of clients and community members in developing and running agency programs.
    The 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s saw the introduction of a variety of new programs and services targeting multiple populations and issues, including infant care, child and sexual abuse, mental illness, people with disabilities, children and senior services, as well as outreach to specific ethnic and social communities, including Japanese Americans and gay men and lesbians.
    Associated Charities of San Francisco. The Associated Charities of San Francisco: Annual Reports, 1904-1910. San Francisco: Blair-Murdock Co., [1911?] Burton, Jean. Katharine Felton and Her Social Work in San Francisco. Stanford University, Calif.: J.L. Delkin, 1947. Family Service Agency of San Francisco website, "History and Facts," http://www.fsasf.org/abt_historyfacts.html (Accessed 01-24-2011).

    Scope and Contents

    The collection consists of early admission and discharge registers of babies and children, minutes and other administrative records from 1909 to the early 2000s, miscellaneous publications and papers related to programs and publicity, scrapbooks and research files from the 1960s-1980s, building plans, and a small amount of photographs documenting the activities of the organization from before its inception as Associated Charities in 1889 through its current role as Family Service Agency of San Francisco, a multiservice nonprofit agency.
    The bulk of the administrative records consists of minutes (1909-1981), which provide a view into the shifting organizational structure, mission, and scope of work of the agency across the decades as it moved from charitable relief organization to government contractor for public welfare services for families. Program and publicity materials include reports on Pinehaven (1940s), Western Addition Project (1969), and Treasure Island (1980s), together with assorted ephemera, a program newsletter from the 1980s, and a fundraising newsletter from the 1990s. The scrapbooks and much of the correspondence date primarily from the 1960s and reflect the agency's increased emphasis on social action during that decade. The research files are those of Richard B. Rogers, who served as Executive Director from 1964-1967. Most of the files seem to be compiled as a history of the organization for the occasion of its 100th anniversary.The building plans include those for the 1927 Bernard Maybeck building at 1010 Gough Street, together with plans for later renovations in 1964 and 2003. Photographs document a fundraising dinner from the 1990s, an exhibit on the history of the organization (1960s), and miscellaneous color snapshots, black and white page proofs, and negatives of people (mostly unidentified) and programs associated with the agency.
    The collection reflects the development of social work as a profession from its beginnings as charity and relief work in the late 19th century, as well as the changing relationship between private charitable organizations and public welfare from the 19th through the end of the 20th century.


    The collection is arranged in seven series: Series 1: Admission and Discharge Registers; Series 2: Administration; Series 3: Programs and Publicity; Series 4: Scrapbooks; Series 5: Richard Rogers' Research Files; Series 6: Building Plans; Series 7: Photographs.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Associated Charities of San Francisco. -- Archives
    Associated Charities. Children's Agency. -- Archives
    Children's Agency. -- Archives
    Citizen's Agency for Social Welfare. -- Archives
    Family and Children's Agency of San Francisco.
    Family Service Agency of San Francisco. -- Archives
    Felton, Katharine
    San Francisco Foundling Asylum. -- Archives
    Family social work--California--San Francisco
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Social conditions