• ACGC History


    In honor of Austin Child Guidance Center's 65th anniversary, we have delved into the rich history of the organization to look at what has (and has not) changed since 1951. Click the tabs below to learn more about different parts of our history.

    And click our Events page to learn more about our 65th Anniversary celebration on Thursday, February 25th and to buy tickets to the event.

    Christine Anderson

    Dr. Christine Warren Anderson was the Secretary of the ACGC Board of Directors in 1982 when she was killed in a tragic car accident. Though only 29, she was already an accomplished teacher, researcher, and scholar.

    She joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in 1978 in the Department of Educational Psychology. In her four years, she designed and taught several highly successful new graduate courses, including a two-semester sequence on families and parenting that received national attention.

    In addition to her service at ACGC, Christine was a co-founder of Parents Anonymous, an Austin group dedicated to helping parents with serious problems in dealing with their children.

    In her honor, ACGC set up the Christine Anderson Children’s Service Award in 1984, created to celebrate and acknowledge community leaders in children’s services. The first recipient was Dr. Jackson Day, a child psychiatrist. Over the years, the Christine Anderson Award has been given to a wide variety of leaders, like: Margaret Gregg (the founder of Extend-A-Care); Judge Scott McCown; Representative J.J. “Jake” Pickle; Libby Doggett; Dr. King Davis (Hogg Foundation); Community Partners for Children; and Representative Elliott Naishtat.

    In 1993, ACGC added a second Christine Anderson Award to honor institutions. Community leaders such as H-E-B; Silicon Labs; the Austin American Statesman; AMD; and Brown McCarroll were among the institutions honored.

    ACGC retired this award in 2007 and in recent years developed the Phyllis Richards Austin Icon for Children Award. For our 65th Anniversary, we are bringing back the Christine Anderson award to celebrate and honor special people and institutions who have been integral throughout our history.

    Students at ACGC

    Students have been an integral part of the work of Austin Child Guidance Center since the beginning. An estimated 700 students have had internships, practicums, and post-doctoral placements with ACGC over the years. Thousands of others have attended one or more trainings or have been volunteers at the center. In fact, there are many people who have had multiple roles, moving from volunteer to intern, and from intern to staff. Currently, 42% of our clinical staff members have a history with ACGC in an intern role. Dr. Julia Hoke, our Director of Psychological Services, may hold the record. She has been a volunteer, an intern, a contract psychologist, a staff psychologist, and now holds a leadership position.

    Interns help ACGC leverage our reach and increase our capacity. Last year alone, student interns provided 2,450 direct service hours to our clients – a value of over $61,000. ACGC has drawn students from University of Texas, St. Edward’s University, Texas A&M, Texas State University, and other schools. We have hosted clinical social workers; administrative social workers; licensed professional counselor interns; psychology practicum students; post-doctoral psychologists; psychiatric nurse practitioners; psychiatric residents; MBA students; and others.

    A report from one of the Center’s first Directors confirms that the first formal agreement to host students was developed in 1958 with the University of Texas School of Social Work, though the report acknowledges that even before this, the center trained “one or two social work students each year.”

    “Students are such an integral part of what we do,” explains Executive Director Russell Smith. “Having a variety of internships each year leverages our resources to serve the community; builds a workforce of highly-trained professionals; and ensures that ACGC is always learning and growing.”

    Annual Reports Throughout the Years

    The following snapshots are taken from annual reports of the Austin Child Guidance Center throughout our history:

    [1953] “1953 was a year of consolidation and consultation. The 250th family applied for and was given service. In the 2 and one-half years since its opening the Center has worked directly with 1,000 children and grown-ups:
    • 250 children struggling unsuccessfully to grow up emotionally;
    • 500 puzzled parents caught in helping their troubled children;
    • 250 school principals, teachers, counselors, doctors, public health nurses, social workers and probation officers, united in community effort to help these puzzled and troubled parents and children.”

    [1964] “Essentially the ‘team approach’ involves the collaboration of professional people representing the three disciplines—social work, psychology and psychiatry—each contributing in a special way to the thorough study, not only of the child, but also of the family and social setting in which the child’s personality has developed and in which the problems have arisen.”

    [1968] “The Austin Child Guidance Center is moving into a new area, that of preventive mental health. It is no longer enough to try and treat the casualties of unhappy living – the future of child guidance lies in maintaining good emotional health and intervention at an early enough level to keep small emotional crises from snowballing into larger ones.”

    [1985] “Children who come to the Center suffer from a variety of mental health problems, but they all have one thing in common. They hurt inside.”

    [2005] “Sometimes life is hard. When parents divorce, a teen may feel angry and isolated. When a child cannot sit still in school, he can be sent frequently to the principal’s office. When a toddler has been abused, she may not trust her new foster parents. When a preschooler bullies his classmate, he could be kicked out of daycare. When a child is diagnosed with a mental illness, a parent can feel helpless and confused. When a grandparent dies, a teenager can feel lonely and might cry for weeks.

    Sometimes it can be so overwhelming. Parents have tried everything and still can’t make things better. When life is hard, Austin Child Guidance Center helps children and families deal with those challenges. We give them hope. We provide a safe place for families to talk with a therapist. Parents learn new skills and tools to help their children. We strive to help children and adolescents have successful lives at school, with friends, and with their family.”

    ACGC’s Focus on Low-Income Families

    Mental health concerns affect all families from all socioeconomic backgrounds. It is estimated that one in five children will have a mental health concern at some point. Austin Child Guidance Center serves all families, from across central Texas. Families come to ACGC from Bell, Burnet, Blanco, Bastrop, Caldwell, Comal, Hays, Lee, Travis and Williamson Counties. We work with girls and boys, toddlers and teenagers, children from every background.

    The Center has placed particular emphasis on serving families most in need. Consistently, families who access services at Austin Child Guidance Center are considered low-income (at or below 200% of the poverty level). These families typically have few options when seeking mental health services.

    This organizational value was adopted early on. The following is an excerpt from the report “The Dream and the Reality,” a report written in January 1969 by ACGC’s Administrative Director Robert Toland.

    “In the past two or three years, leadership in the ACGC has focused on a philosophy of increasing services to the more disadvantaged, multiproblem, ‘high-risk’ areas of Austin and Travis County. It is known that certain areas contain a high incidence of mental health problems.

    One relatively simple assessment of the case distribution was made by placing pins in a map of cases. A distribution of some 567 pins showed we are covering Austin and Travis County in a geographic manner roughly proportionate to the population, with proportionately much less service to the most affluent neighborhoods (e.g., Northwest Hills, Tarrytown. It is our impression that these sections are served by private psychiatrists for the most part).

    Our philosophy will continue to stress a broad spectrum of service to all applicants, but our emphasis will undoubtedly be on middle and lower income families, and especially upon the most income-disadvantaged families, in the target areas where the highest incidence of mental health problems exist, and in which, traditionally, there has been poor delivery of service.”

    We are proud to report that, 46 years after Mr. Toland wrote this report, Austin Child Guidance Center continues to live this philosophy.



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