The Association was founded by Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson. He was born of nobility in France, and as a youngster, he was deeply concerned about the plight of unwanted infants abandoned by their parents in China, a practice that was prevalent in that country during the early 19th century. As a young priest, he requested permission to be sent to China where he planned to devote his life to alleviating any condition of child abuse. His request was denied. Later, he again appealed to the Missionary Father for an appointment to China. Instead, he was urged to apply his energy and zeal to home mission services in France. The welfare and education of mission children remained foremost in his mind. After extensive discussions with missionaries and Pauline Jaricot, foundress of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Bishop de Forbin-Janson conceived the idea of an organization made up of children in Christian countries helping, through prayers and alms, these abandoned children of China.
Although he was denied being a travelling missionary to China he still practiced his call to be a missionary, right where he was.
In 1843, he formally organized his “children helping children” society and called it the Holy Childhood Association. Members were asked to pray a daily Hail Mary for mission children and contribute one penny in monthly dues which would be given in direct aid to assist those children.
The movement flourished and spread to other countries, arriving in the United States in 1846. It enjoyed papal approval from its inception, and was formally designated a Pontifical Association in 1926. Thereby designating it as the Holy See’s official agency for mission for children – providing substantial support for children’s most basic human needs while offering them hope in the person of Jesus Christ.Its name was changed to Missionary Childhood Association in 2011 to closer align its identity with the Society worldwide. Today, children in over 110 countries are being helped through the prayers and sacrifices of Missionary Childhood members throughout the world.