Grammar Tip – Children’s Services

BizWritingTip question: “In our organization, we have a department called Children’s Services. Is this correct? I thought the apostrophe indicates ownership. In this case, the children do not own the services. The department provides the services for children.”

BizWritingTip response: Your question is not a simple one to answer. There are a couple of points that come into play. First, you are right. One of the uses of an apostrophe is to show possession.

Examples showing possession
The manager’s meeting (one manager is hosting a meeting)
The managers’ meeting (more than one manager is hosting a meeting)

Second, sometimes a word is used to describe rather than to show possession. In this case, you would not use an apostrophe.

Examples that describe
Managers meeting (meeting for managers)
Savings account (account for savings)
Sales call (call for the purpose of sales)

Based on this, you would assume that as you are talking about services for children it should be Children Services.

However — hold on — remember the “exceptions to the rules” I often talk about.

Children is an irregular plural noun. In other words, although the word is plural, it does not end in s.

Examples of irregular plural nouns

With these nouns, you add an apostrophe even though you are using the word as a descriptor – not to show possession.

Examples that describe with irregular plural nouns
Women’s Club (club for women)
Men’s room (room for men)
Alumni’s reunion (reunion for alumni)

Therefore, the name of your department is correct: Children’s Services