One of the challenges that parents sometimes faced when their child was being seen at the renowned Yale Child Study Center (CSC) was how to keep their other children occupied. Often, families found themselves squeezed into small waiting areas as children passed the time on their electronic devices.
But this fall, that all changed. Now children who come to the CSC can pick out a favorite book to read; play in a large waiting room with a tree in the middle; or explore nooks that invite kids to pretend they are in the forest or at the beach.
“Families have remarked on how good it feels to come in here. There’s just a lot of whimsy here,” says clinical psychologist Jessica Mayo, PhD, who is the Young Child Clinical Coordinator for the CSC. She spoke of one mother of four whose children now excitedly head to the “Book Nook” while their sibling is receiving care. “It’s made it so much less stressful for the mom,” Mayo says.
In September, the Child Study Center’s clinical practice moved into a newly renovated building at 350 George St. A festive ribbon-cutting ceremony followed on Oct. 4. The new facility brings all of the CSC’s clinical operations together under one roof, thereby making it easier for families to access services and promoting increased interaction and collaboration among clinicians. Until now, the CSC’s clinical services have been scattered over three different sites in New Haven, at times requiring families to go to multiple locations for different services. The move to 350 George St. consolidates those services in a single location that was meticulously designed to provide warm, welcoming, patient-centered spaces for children and families.
Linda Mayes, MD, chair of the Child Study Center, says it is great to see the excited look on children’s faces as they walk through the doors of the new space. “I think it’s the respect they feel when they walk in. Our new space is not only beautiful, but in that beauty it conveys our respect and care for the families coming to us.”
What has made the 350 George St. project so successful is the fact that everyone who works at the CSC had an opportunity to provide input, says Erin Warnick, PhD, lead of clinical operations for the Child Study Center and the CSC’s point person for the project. The process included a number of community workshops for CSC staff and the creation of a space planning committee with representation from all CSC stakeholders.
“We really took the time to talk to people and listen to what they needed, and that enabled us to design the space in a way that supports our work,” Warnick says. “The goal was not just to move from one place to another place. We looked at how we can improve our settings, how we can improve the experiences of both families and clinicians, how we can we bring people together in new ways.”
Bringing people together in new ways is something that Virginia J. Zecchini, LCSW, has seen firsthand. As clinical coordinator for IICAPS (Intensive In-home Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Service), Zecchini manages a program that provides services to families in their homes. Now, when IICAPS staff and trainees are in the office at 350 George St., they have the opportunity to run into colleagues with whom they may be sharing a case, Zecchini says. In the past, when they were in a different location from other CSC staff, that would not have been possible.
“Now that we are in the same location, we can share information much more quickly than before. It makes collaboration much easier than in the past,” says Zecchini, who recently ran into a colleague while in the kitchen heating her lunch. That colleague is working with the same family as Zecchini, and the chance meeting gave them an opportunity to collaborate.
Approximately 225 people work in the CSC’s new clinical facility, including physicians, psychologists, social workers, and staff. The CSC’s clinical trainees in psychology, social work, and child psychiatry are also located in the new building. The CSC’s research programs will continue to be located at 230 South Frontage Road.
In addition to providing outpatient and home-based services, the 350 George St. location houses the CSC’s Center for Emotional Intelligence and the MOMS Partnership (serving mothers with mental health needs). The CSC provides care to about 3,000 families annually, with about 60,000 clinical visits per year.
The inviting interior of 350 George St. maximizes the use of light and features colors and artwork that replicate such natural settings as rivers, forests, and beaches. Several aspects of the building’s décor are especially meaningful. Rex Walden—the grandson of Arnold Gesell, the first director of the CSC—created two pieces of art for the new facility. Scholastic Publishers donated books and a book vending machine, as well as artwork for the waiting area.
“The facility is absolutely beautiful. It’s just a nice place to come to work every day,” says Nancy Close, PhD, clinical director of the CSC’s Parent and Family Development Program. “It feels like it honors the people who work here as well as the people who come here for help. It communicates that this is a place where you will be cared for.”