Charles Loring Brace, founder and first director of the Children's Aid Society, pinned his hopes for social progress on a radical experiment--the removal of thousands of poor New York City children from the "contaminating influence" of their families to "good Christian homes" in the West. This article examines CAS's western emigration program over four decades, from 1853 to 1890. Using case records, it looks at children's lives before and after foster placement. Analysis of the records reveals that few children fit the profile of neglected and abused "waifs" that Brace liked to publicize. Adolescent males, in quest of work, formed the overwhelming majority of emigrants. Parents brought others to CAS for foster placement during a family crisis and retrieved them when the crisis passed. While Brace hoped to sever ties between children and their families, children's bonds to their natural families remained strong. This study concludes that while Brace set the policies for CAS, clients helped shape the actual practices of the organization.