foundling hospital, institution for receiving and caring for abandoned children. In Athens and in Rome until the 4th cent., unwanted children were exposed, or left to die, in appointed places. The first modern foundling hospital was established by the archpriest of Milan in 787. Other cities throughout Europe followed this example. One of the best-known of such hospitals was founded in 1739 in London by Thomas Coram. In the United States, the first foundling hospital, St. Vincent's Infant Asylum, was begun in 1856 by Roman Catholic nuns in Baltimore. It was followed shortly by the founding of other infant asylums supported by religious denominations or private philanthropies. In both Great Britain and the United States foundling hospitals have for the most part been replaced by foster care programs under the supervision of state welfare agencies. Other maternal- and child-care programs are financed by municipal agencies or under social security programs.
See M. P. Hall, The Social Services of Modern England (6th ed., rev. 1963).