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Caring for Children and Families for Over 100 Years

November 25, 2019
Photo by Robert A. Lisak
The Child Study Center’s newly renovated clinical space is bright and inviting, with architectural elements, furnishings, and color schemes designed to make children and families feel welcome.

When Arnold Gesell—who was considered the father of child development in this country— established the Child Study Center (CSC) in 1911, it was a one-room operation in the New Haven Dispensary known as the Clinic of Child Development. Today, as the school’s department of child psychiatry and developmental science, the center is home to over 500 faculty, staff, and fellows who work with over 3,000 families each year and has an impressive array of programs across patient care, research, education, and policy.

Work carried out by CSC faculty and clinicians uses approaches that range from molecular genetics to community-based interventions for children and adolescents—from those who are typically developing to those who have the most pressing childhood developmental challenges. The techniques they use run the gamut from pluripotent stem cells to brain imaging to geocoding and qualitative interviewing across the lifespan from the prenatal period through adulthood. The center has many clinical trials in progress for new and promising treatments and evaluating interventions for a host of issues affecting children and families. Its educational efforts span the undergraduate level through the advanced training of the next generation of clinician scientists from many disciplines, including child psychiatry and psychology, pediatrics, developmental neuroscience, and social work.

Unique among our centers and departments, the Child Study Center goes beyond our missions of research, education, and clinical care. It seeks to express the voices of children affected by violence, poverty, and mental health disorders. Although it is grounded in the School of Medicine, the center is a bridge to collaborations with other schools at Yale, with services extending to community settings, homes, and schools that reach children and families. It works to better their lives through collaborations with community and government organizations particularly in New Haven, but also far beyond its boundaries. These include initiatives that shape education and policy both domestically and internationally through an interdisciplinary approach that blends developmental science, mental health, education, communication science, and political and policy science.

With support from Yale Medicine, the center recently brought together its clinical services from three separate sites under one roof at 350 George Street. The new space provides the opportunity to unite its clinical and community programs into one integrated and collaborative setting that seamlessly connects with research activities taking place on the medical campus, as well as care provided across Yale New Haven Health. The new location offers expanded possibilities for innovation in care and opportunities for providers, who are now in close proximity, to learn from one another. The center’s partnership with Scholastic, which arose from a shared commitment to exploring how literacy can be used to foster resilience among children and families, is evident through the abundance of books and a book vending machine at the new location. From its architecture and layout to its furniture and color scheme, the new facility has a warm and welcoming environment designed to put children at ease.

Increasingly, we recognize that behavioral health is at the root of many of the health care and public health issues we face. The Child Study Center’s investment in children and families and its intervention at critical junctures in their lives speaks to the School of Medicine’s commitment to improving health in ways that will have a lasting impact on generations to come.