Centers for Youth and Families

Centers for Youth and Families

Who We Are

Mission + Values



The mission of Centers for Youth & Families is to provide specialized prevention, intervention and treatment services that promote emotional and social wellness for children and families in Arkansas.

Centers for Youth & Families has been building healthy children, families and communities for over 130 years!

The Centers provides an age-appropriate, comprehensive continuum of care for the emotional wellness of all ages.

Since 1884, the organization has grown from serving only a few to serving thousands of children and families each year. Our programs address typical family issues and concerns that today’s families encounter along with serving specific areas such as socially and emotionally challenged and at-risk youth, children with learning differences, runaway and homeless youth, expecting and new parents, pregnant and parenting teens, Hispanic young parents, foster families and victims of human trafficking.

Life is not picture perfect. Traumatic events may cause emotional and social challenges that make life seem impossible for your child and your family.

We're here to help you find hope, learn resilience, and rediscover possible.

Building Healthy Children, Families & Communities for 130 Years!


Centers for Youth & Families began in 1884 and today is the oldest continuously operating not-for-profit in Arkansas.

Throughout our evolution from the Children's Aid Society in 1884, to the Little Rock Orphans' Home in 1907, to the Elizabeth Mitchell Memorial Home in 1947 and, finally, to Centers for Youth & Families in 1987, our mission of caring for children and families has been the common thread.

In 1987, Elizabeth Mitchell Children's Center, The Junior League of Little Rock Parent Center and Stepping Stone, Inc . came together through a merger to serve the children, families, and community. The result is known today as Centers for Youth and Families.

Today, our services concentrate on providing help for emotionally and behaviorally disturbed youth and providing prevention services to at-risk children and teens, along with parenting resources for families.

Our history is rich and legacy longstanding. Below is a detailed timeline explaining the transition of organizations through the years.


1884 – The Children’s Aid Society is founded by Elizabeth Latta Mitchell.

1886 – The Children's Aid Society establishes The Children's Home of Little Rock at 410 Arch Street.

1888 – Elizabeth Mitchell is named president of The Children's Home of Little Rock.


1907 - The property at 920 McGowan is purchased for the newly named organization, Little Rock Orphan's Home (formerly The Children's Home of Little Rock)

1947 – The Little Rock Orphan’s Home is renamed the Elizabeth Mitchell Memorial Home to honor the organization's President, Elizabeth Mitchell.

1952 – For the first time, a psychologist is used to treat clients of the Elizabeth Mitchell Memorial Home.

1955 – The Elizabeth Mitchell Memorial Home changes its name to Elizabeth Mitchell Children’s Home.

1960 – The Elizabeth Mitchell Children’s Home relocates to 400 West 18th Street (photo on left). The Home will remain here until 1982.

1965 - Comprehensive healthcare becomes available to millions of Americans through the creation of Medicaid and Medicare, changing the way client services are offered.

1970 – Pulaski County Guidance Center and Elizabeth Mitchell Children's Home merge together and formally change the name of their organization to Elizabeth Mitchell Children’s Center. EMCC begins offering additional services through an Outpatient division.

1974 – Elizabeth Mitchell Children's Center received accreditation as a Child/Adolescent Psychiatric Facility by The Joint Commission.

1979 - The Junior League of Little Rock funds and develops The Parent Center while Central Arkansas Human Services Council officially changes its name to Stepping Stone, Inc. (both entities play an integral role in who The Centers becomes in 1987).

1980 - A $1,000,000 capital campaign begins with the goal to create a new residential facility for The Elizabeth Mitchell Children's Center.

1982 - The Elizabeth Mitchell Children's Center moves from 18th Street to a brand new residential facility located at 6601 West 12th Street.

1984 – Day Treatment services move from EMCC to their own facility on Scott Hamilton Drive. Today our Day Treatment program is located in North Little Rock and serves up to 30 students on any given day of the school year.

1987 – The Elizabeth Mitchell Children’s Center, The Parent Center, and Stepping Stone officially merge and name the newly formed organization: Centers for Youth & Families, Inc. This same year, Elizabeth Mitchell Adolescent Center (EMAC) opens its doors for service next to EMCC. The two separate facilities allow for more age-appropriate specialty services.

1991 - The new Youth Emergency Shelter (formerly provided through Stepping Stone's facility) opens at 6601 West 12th Street. This same year, Woodlawn Therapeutic Children's Center joins The Centers family of services allowing us to offer pre-school services to the community.

1992 – The Centers successfully completes a $2.3 million capital campaign and 5905 Forest Place is purchased. This location housed Outpatient Services, The Parent Center, our Prison Programs, The Centers Foundation, and Executive Offices.

1993 - Scottish Rite Dyslexia Center joins The Centers family of services.

1995 - Doug Stadter replaces Richard Hill as President and CEO of Centers for Youth & Families.

1998 - The Shepherd's Ranch (mentoring program) is acquired by The Centers.

1999 - Centers for Youth and Families Foundation is established. Until this time, Centers Corps, an association which organized CFYF Volunteers, handled all fundraising efforts.


2000 – The Centers is named Arkansas Business non-profit of the year

2008 - Centers for Youth and Families receives the former YWCA as a gift and renames it the Bess Chisum Stephens Community Center. In 2008, the Southeast Arkansas Residential Treatment Center opens in Monticello, expanding our reach in the state.

2009 - 125th Anniversary of Centers for Youth & Families.

2012 - The twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1987 merger is celebrated. Today we are the oldest continually-operating non-profit in the state of Arkansas, continually working to build healthy children, families and communities.

2012 - Therapeutic Family Homes Program receives a specialized license through Child Welfare Licensing for a Sexual Rehabilitative Program.

2014 - CFYF provided agency-wide training and implementation of Trauma-Informed Care (TIC), a nationally recognized, evidence-based approach. Over 90% of children CFYF serves have experienced trauma.

2014 - Access to Care enhanced services to provide same-day appointments for first-time clients.

2015 - Outpatient Services expanded the age of clients served to twenty-six years of age to better care for the young adult and transitional youth population. In addition, counseling services also expanded to provide therapy for adult family members.

2015 - Residential Services expanded to add thirteen additional licensed beds in Little Rock and three additional beds in Monticello. These beds are also available for the use of treating youth who are victims of Human Trafficking.

2016 - CFYF receives a $15,000 grant from the Marion and Miriam Rose Fund to establish the Human Trafficking Program.

2016 - Significant improvements to our facilities include the purchase of office space at Freeway Medical Center for the Foundation and Executive Office, new hardwood flooring was installed in the Youth Emergency Shelter and Outpatient Clinic. A new VIP room at Elizabeth Mitchell Childrens Center was created for the use of clients. New breakrooms for staff were built in both the children and adolescent centers in Little Rock.

2017 - Melissa Dawson replaces Doug Stadter as President and CEO of Centers for Youth & Families.

2019 - Centers for Youth & Families became the Community Mental Health Center in Region Six of Arkansas.

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