Our History

Since 1922, FPWA has driven groundbreaking policy reforms to better serve those in need.

Fighting for all to Thrive and Live with Dignity

Over our 100-year history, FPWA has continued to work with and advocate for New Yorkers who live with poverty so they can meet their basic needs. While we still meet our neighbors where they are today, our strategy has evolved and deepened. We’re committed to calling out the injustice and economic inequity that permeate our city’s policies, practices, and institutions. Our mission is nothing less than to dismantle the systemic barriers that impede economic security and well-being. Our goal is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live with dignity and thrive. 

young protester speaking at workers rally in nyc

History Timeline

 In 1922, thousands of abandoned, homeless children lived on the streets of New York CityFPWA was founded to meet this crisis. At that time, services were provided by religious organizations that largely supported white New YorkersA group of determined Protestants banded together to serve those who were being left behindThey created The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (originally known as the Federation of Institutions Caring for Protestant Children) and succeeded in helping Black children overcome this crisis.


The Beginning: Solving a Crisis

FPWA was founded in 1922 when the number of homeless children without guardianship in the city became a crisis. Few organizations existed to address the situation and their efforts were disjointed. Black and brown children had few places to go. Our founders rallied to the need, supporting programs for these children and providing a unifying voice for others working in the community. 


Fighting for Black and Brown Children

By 1930, FPWA was hard at work developing foster homes in Black communities, supporting organizations so they can better meet the needs of children, and expanding programs for children and the elderly. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt praised our anti-poverty fight at Hotel Plaza in 1935.


Emerging from the Great Depression

During wartime rationing and restrictions in the 1940s, FPWA formed Institutional Marketing Services to provide information and purchasing assistance to affect agencies. This became Group Purchasing Services.

vintage women of color eating together


A Time of Growth and Expansion

By 1950, 149 nonprofits and human services organizations were members of FPWA. We also began our work with The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund to help those facing economic hardship in our city. 


Equal Welfare Access For All

FPWA defended and protected welfare in New York and beyond, declaring that “it is the right of every human being in need to get help – regardless of race, religion, moral standards or causes of dependency.” FPWA’s support turned into action through its advisory role on the New York City Advisory Board on Public Welfare. 


vintage fpwa
vintage civil rights discussion


Championing Civil Rights

Into the 70s, we acknowledged that real equity would require policy change. FPWA championed civil rights legislation and court reform in New York, and was a key advisor to a city struggling to address deep poverty and discrimination. We continued our protection of Black and brown children, launching an innovative foster care program. 


Holding the City's Feet to the Fire

When the AIDS crisis hit in the 1980s, FPWA stepped into the breach, convening a task force to hold the City’s feet to the fire in meeting the urgent needs of all its citizens. Our consistent advocacy helped ensure that the City gave special attention to fighting the rapid spread of the disease in communities of color. 

vintage nyc health services young colored people
vintage megan mclaughlin


Advocating for Basic Needs, Living Wages, and Shelter

The 90s brought an increase of homelessness and a decrease in safety net assistance and FPWA saw firsthand the effects on tens of thousands of New Yorkers who couldn’t meet their basic needs. We responded by advocating for living wages and increased benefits, providing testimony on the root causes of poverty and the disenfranchisement of the poor, and fighting for funding to shelter individuals and families to ensure sufficient food support. 


Rebuilding Communities After 9/11

The destruction caused by 9/11 – loss of lives, jobs, small businesses, dislocation of residents and property damage – was extensive. And for those who were already deeply affected by the Great Recession, the problems that persisted before the attack were made worse. We distributed millions of dollars in aid to communities hit hardest by the attack and continued our fight against budget cuts and for the protection of the safety net.  

mother and young child
fpwa living wage public speaking


Increasing the Minimum Wage and Criminal Justice Reform

We led critical reforms in the New York Police Department (NYPD), including the city adopting our recommendations to end the criminalization of poverty, which were reported in our landmark 2019 report, Ending the Poverty to Prison Pipeline. We fought for fair and living wages for human services workers and helped set the ball in motion to move the local and state governments to increase the minimum wage for all New Yorkers. Working with other sector leaders and partners, we led and achieved a path to salary parity for childcare workers, and a government commitment to pay actual costs for critical operation expenses. We also established a career ladder for human services workers.


Racial and Economic Equity

In 2022, we celebrated our centennial anniversary and developed a new organizational strategic plan to lead us into our next 100 years. One of our policy priorities – as laid out in Pushed to the Precipice, our new strategic plan, and our latest investigative report, Caught in the Gaps calls for the adoption of a “true cost of living” measure, which was realized when New York City residents voted this measure into City law during the November 8, 2022, general election. We continue to call on the state and nation to also adopt a “true cost living measure” so we can move away from outdated measures that undercount and misrepresent the realities of poverty and use it to help set fair wages and more equitably administer critical income supports.

fpwa living wage public speaking

What We Do Now

Our mission is nothing less than to dismantle the systemic barriers that impede economic security and well-being.  Our goal is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live with dignity and thrive. 

Stay alert to Grant Scams & Fraud

Have you or someone you know been contacted by someone posing to be an “FPWA Agent” or staff person requesting money to release a grant?

Fulfilling the
Promise of

FPWA has recently been receiving claims from members of the public emailing and calling our offices that individuals posing as FPWA agents have contacted them claiming that in order for the recipient to claim grant monies from FPWA they must first send the agent personal information, a cell phone number, gift card codes or money.

FPWA does not use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), text messages or direct phone contact to solicit, review, or make awards. FPWA staff will not call or message you requesting money in order to be eligible for an award.

Further, FPWA does not make grants directly to individuals. FPWA works with its member agency partners and other reputable community-based organizations to direct support to families and individuals in our community.

If you or someone you know has been contacted by someone posing to be an “FPWA Agent” or staff person requesting money to release a grant, please do the following:

If you have questions prior to reporting your incident, view the IC3 FAQs for more information.

Learn more about Facebook Scams from the BBB

NYC Funds Tracker Dashboard and Analysis

The interactive open data dashboard helps you visualize and track the city budget, with a specific focus on the critical human services funding we rely on.

Don’t forget to also check out our new analysis