2021 marks 135 years of Clarity Child Guidance Center’s mission to help children, adolescents, and families overcome the disabling effects of mental illness and improve their ability to function successfully at home, at school, and in the community.
Let’s get to know who Clarity is and how we became the nonprofit that we are now by tracing our incredible 135 years of history!
who is clarity
Founded in 1886, Clarity Child Guidance Center is the only nonprofit in South Texas providing a continuum of mental health care for children and adolescents, ages 3-17, who are experiencing a range of emotional, mental, and behavioral illnesses from ADHD and anxiety to suicidal ideation, bipolar disorder and/or schizophrenia.
Services at the facilities include crisis services, inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, outpatient therapies, case management for families, medication management, and art, music and play therapy.
Clarity CGC offers the region’s largest concentration of child and adolescent psychiatrists, with its onsite affiliation with Southwest Psychiatric Physicians. In addition, the center serves as a teaching hospital for UT Health San Antonio and Baylor College of Medicine. Clarity CGC’s treatment network includes an eight-acre campus in the South Texas Medical Center with a 66-bed hospital, four psychiatric emergency services beds, and an observation area that is staffed with mental health professionals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Clarity CGC serves children in need, regardless of their family’s ability to pay.
A group of 13 women met at the Maverick Hotel in San Antonio, Texas, to establish a home for orphaned children and called it The Home for Destitute Children. The founding Board of Directors included Mrs. Mary A. Maverick, Mrs. A.J. Dignowity, Mrs. Kate W. Norton, Mrs. D. N. Bash, Mrs. U. Lott, Mrs. A. J. Fry, Miss Lucy Cable Mrs. Ed R. Norton, Mrs. George S. Chabot, , Mrs. C. C. Cresson, Mrs. F. L. Talcott, Mrs. H. D. Kampmann, Mrs. I. P. Simpson and Miss Mary Lamb. The first location of the home was at 217 Sixth Street and was rented for $30 a month, using donations from San Antonio philanthropist Col. George Washington Brackenridge. A small group of six children was placed here.
A state charter was obtained on February 2 for THE HOME FOR DESTITUTE CHILDREN. On February 17 the first election was held, and the following officers appointed: Mrs. Ed R. Norton, president; Mrs. George S. Chabot, vice president; Mrs. C.C. Cresson, corresponding secretary; Mrs. John Newton, recording secretary; and Mrs. F. L. Talcott, treasurer.
On July 23, the charter was amended to reflect a name change to PROTESTANT HOME FOR DESTITUTE CHILDREN. The organization moved to its second home located at 815 San Pedro Avenue.
The organization moved to its third home—a large three-story home at 802 Kentucky Avenue to accommodate the growing number of children that needed services. A chapel, hospital and two sleeping porches were added. During the years the home was located at Kentucky Ave., the staff cared for over 3,000 children. The house was built in 1870 and was a gift of Gen. G. N. Russ; it was designed by noted Texas architect James Riely Gordon. The building was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1991. Later uses for this property included a Catholic mission and residential apartments. The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) now occupies the building.
The number of children needing care grew significantly and even larger quarters were needed, so a campaign was launched to raise funds for a new building to be erected on 50 acres of land on Woodlawn Avenue. In a great show of civic pride and humanitarian sentiment, volunteers collected $250,000 for the construction of the new building that could accommodate 100 boys, 100 girls, and 50 babies. By October of this year, 3,414 children had come through the home on Kentucky Avenue.
On September 13, 1925, board members of the Protestant Home for Destitute Children placed a time capsule during construction in a wall of the new Woodlawn facility, with hopes that someone in the future would find it and witness their efforts and dedication to improve the lives of children. (Almost 80 years later, in July 2004, board members, staff, former residents, and friends unveiled the time capsule.)
On January 25, the organization moved to their fourth home located at 3031 W. Woodlawn Avenue. The same admission policy was followed: a home was to be provided for children who were needy, neglected or orphaned.
Charter amendment on December 10 to reflect a name change to PROTESTANT ORPHANS HOME OF SAN ANTONIO.
First swimming pool donated to the home by Mrs. Albert Friedrich, in honor of her late husband. First staff of doctors includes Dr. T. J. Walthall. The Home opened an infirmary of 30 beds on November 23, 1929.
The State Board of Education declared the Protestant Orphan’s Home an independent school district.
Renewal of Charter on March 4.
The Protestant Orphan’s Home of San Antonio receives nonprofit, tax-exempt designation.
Charter amendment on January 5 to achieve a name change to PROTESTANT CHILDREN’S HOME OF SAN ANTONIO.
The Community Guidance Center (CGC) formally opened its doors in May 1956 on 217 South Presa Street in the home of Miss DeRossette Thomas. It went into operation with a seven member staff. The opening was the result of a 10-year effort on the part of the Mental Health Association of Bexar County. CGC was set up to treat emotional illnesses in children and provide consultant services to other agencies. The Community Guidance Center was prepared to treat children up to age 17 and expected to discharge 50 long term cases its first year.
The Protestant Children’s Home moved to its fifth location at 2939 W. Woodlawn (a group of cottage homes next door to the Woodlawn “mansion”). Evolving through the years in response to community needs, the home began the transition from orphanage to a residential treatment facility for emotionally disturbed youth.
The brick building at 3031 Woodlawn was sold; the Protestant Children’s Home used the money generated from the sale of the brick building to build five home-like cottages on the grounds, where youth resided for long term treatment. The maximum capacity was approximately 60 children and adolescents at any given time. The children stayed from 6 months to two years. The children lived at the home throughout the week and returned home to their families on weekends. Because the facility was not being used by patients on weekends, it was used for respite care.
In April, Protestant Children’s Home became self-administering. In December, the first school was established on the grounds with a teacher provided by the San Antonio Independent School District.
In 1962, The Community Guidance Center moved to 2135 Babcock Road. Family therapy was the primary service offered; there were as many as seven or eight new family evaluations per week. CGC opened an outpatient unit at the Robert B. Green Hospital in 1969, and within six months had provided services to 100 children.
The Protestant Children’s Home was a self-sufficient agency with its own therapy team and a treatment center including five cottages, a new swimming pool, tennis courts, playroom and gymnasium.
Arnold Parker, the former director of food services at the home, made a cookie the size of a dinner plate for a young boy who was leaving the inpatient program the next day. The food service staff presented the boy with the huge cookie at dinnertime, and seeing how special it was for him, decided to lovingly make each child their own special treat when they complete inpatient treatment, beginning the “discharge cookie” tradition which continues to this day.
Charter amended on September 5 changing the existence of the corporation to “perpetual.” Charter amendment on September 15 reflects a name change to SAN ANTONIO CHILDREN’S CENTER. A need had developed for more intensive, psychiatric treatment in a hospital setting. In the 1970s, the San Antonio Children’s Center formalized an agreement with University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHSC) to become an affiliate teaching hospital and became licensed as a private psychiatric hospital – the only one in South Texas.
At the same time, a formal affiliation agreement was signed between the Community Guidance Center board and the Board of Regents of UTHSC, facilitating a closer relationship with the Medical School.
Psychiatry Residents and Psychology Interns from the Medical School began to rotate at both the Community Guidance Center and San Antonio Children’s Center.
The late 1970s and early 1980s brought more changes to San Antonio Children’s Center. During this time, 16 beds were added to the Woodlawn campus, and an informal agreement with Community Guidance Center stated that they would provide outpatient services, and the San Antonio Children’s Center would provide inpatient services.
By 1986, a wide range of mental health services, including comprehensive diagnostic services, acute care/crisis intervention programs, moderate and long-term care for chronic or difficult to treat patients and outpatient services were offered between centers. The affiliation with the medical school resulted in national recognition for both its training program in child psychiatry and its research activities in the causes and treatments of psychiatric disorders appearing in childhood and adolescence.
The San Antonio Children’s Center expands to a second location at 8535 Tom Slick Drive in the South Texas Medical Center area and provides expanded services, including a clinical and administrative office building, a living unit, dining hall, and activity education complex. The Tom Slick campus provided services only to acute patients, while the children in residential care remained at Woodlawn.
Charter amendment on February 6 to reflect a name change from SAN ANTONIO CHILDREN’S CENTER to SOUTHWEST NEUROPSYCHIATRIC INSTITUTE to build on national recognition for training program in child psychiatry and research activities in the causes and treatments of psychiatric disorders appearing in childhood and adolescence.
The Southwest Psychiatric Physicians group was formed, providing psychiatric services for the Institute.
Charter amendment on February 4 to reflect a name change from SOUTHWEST NEUROPSYCHIATRIC INSTITUTE to SOUTHWEST MENTAL HEALTH CENTER.
Since its inception in the 1940s, both the Protestant Children’s Home and Community Guidance Center were partner agencies with United Way (formerly called The Community Chest.) The United Way presented Child Guidance Center (formerly Community Guidance Center) with multiple Pacesetter Awards for outstanding leadership, including one in 1997.
In the fall of 2000, it was clear that acute inpatient care was more consistent with the mission of Southwest Mental Health Center (SMHC) than long term-residential treatment. The Woodlawn facility was closed (and eventually became the location of The Children’s Shelter).
In 2001, SMHC expanded its services for more children by adding 12 beds to the existing 40-bed hospital, increases inpatient service capacity by 30 percent.
Therapeutic recreation program expands at SMHC with addition of playground funded by Charity Ball Association and ROPES Course.
SMHC completes $850,000 capital campaign to expand and renovate its 52-bed living units.
SMHC adopts an innovative and groundbreaking approach of care, founded on the values of dignity, respect and understanding, and on the belief that children want to overcome their problems, but many don’t know how. It has now become Claritycare, an approach that works with the child and their family to discover what is preventing them from overcoming obstacles.
Southwest Mental Health Center and Child Guidance Center merge and operations continue under the name of Southwest Mental Health Center.
Charter amendment on April 6 to reflect a name change to Clarity Child Guidance Center.
Clarity Child Guidance Center (CCGC) launches an advocacy campaign called One in Five Minds with a goal of raising awareness about mental illness and breaking down stigma. The campaign, which has reached 300,000 individuals since its launch, includes an outreach program for military families and a pilot for educators. Clarity CGC sponsors and organizes the first Children’s Mental Health Summit for professionals; this summit was renamed Claritycon in 2014 and has become a major annual training event that continues to this day, without interruption.
The first Clarity Child Guidance outpatient clinic opened in Westover Hills on January 9, 2014.
Opened the first of three phases of Tom Slick campus expansion with the Mays Family Gymnasium and Therapeutic Recreation Center, and a new Partial Hospitalization / Day Treatment center with a 30-patient capacity, allowing children to receive treatment during the day and return home at night.
Further expanded UT Health-San Antonio partnership by providing preceptor and training support for the Nurse Practitioner program and hired a psychiatric nurse practitioner to join the team at Clarity. Most local nursing schools rotate students on the main campus to gain additional skills.
A capital improvement project completed on Tom Slick Drive increased hospital beds from 40 to 66 and opening of a first of its kind 24-hour Crisis Assessment Center. In partnership with the Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry from the University of Texas Health Science Center, now known as UT Health-San Antonio, opened new three-story Outpatient facility.
Creation of a care coordination department later called The Next Steps Center to provide more effective utilization of health services for children at high risk of harm to self and others, as well as to reduce the need for re-admission.
Other new initiatives since 2018 including military parents awareness campaign with the support of The USAA Foundation; BaseCampus pilot for educators with the help of the H.E. Butt Foundation; and volunteer programs including Food for the Soul, Bridge the Gap and Be the Link.
Partnership with Baylor College of Medicine so pediatric residents rotate through Clarity hospital to increase the knowledge base of physicians beyond psychiatry.
Outpatient clinic on the west side closed and relocated to main campus on Tom Slick Drive, bringing all Clarity CGC services to one campus.
Opening of four psychiatric emergency services beds in Clarity CGC’s observation unit, in partnership with University Health System and Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council’s 24-hour regional communication center (STRAC-MEDCOM).
COVID 19 initiatives include deployment of telehealth for all outpatient services; continuation of all inpatient and crisis services with safety precautions; published crisis response content for parents on website; and deployed Parents Chat webinars and virtual Strong Minds Happy Heart events. Claritycon was transformed into Claritycon Reimagined –with four mini-conferences instead of one—and partnered with studios of KLRN-PBS TV to offer three options to participants: in-person, live-virtual, and on-demand.
135th anniversary of Clarity Child Guidance Center to be celebrated. New website launched at https://www.claritycgc.org/