Founded in 1952 by the Junior League of Wilmington, Delaware Guidance Services for Children & Youth, Inc. (DGS) has grown from a one-psychiatrist operation in loaned space, to the largest single not-for-profit provider of comprehensive psychiatric services for children and their families in Delaware with a staff of 180, a budget of $10.6M, and five locations statewide. >
Following is a timeline of our long and rich history:
1953 – DGS opened its doors as the Wilmington Child Guidance Center, established through the efforts of the Wilmington Junior League and pediatrician Dr. Robert O. Y. Warren to promote mental health by offering psychiatric diagnosis and treatment for emotionally disturbed children. A group of community volunteers, including Junior League members, physicians, clergymen and professionals, came together to serve as the agency’s first Board of Directors. The Board raised funds to run the clinic for a year, found rent-free quarters in the Sunday School Building of Trinity Episcopal Church and assembled a qualified staff including a psychiatrist, a psychiatric social worker, a part-time psychologist and a secretary-bookkeeper. In the first year, 151 cases were treated and a long waiting list developed.
The service goals of the new Center were first direct service to children and their parents, and second, service to the community at-large through schools, childcare, family agencies and medical facilities. A long-range goal was for the Center to become a training facility for professional staff.
The Center was supported in its first four years with funds from the Junior League, the Wilmington Flower Market, a trust fund and private contributions.
1955 – The Board raised enough funds to rent larger quarters at Delaware Avenue and Lincoln Street and to expand its professional staff to a full team by adding another social worker. The service of the psychologist was increased to full-time and involved, in addition to testing, some therapy under the supervision of the psychiatrist. These changes enabled the Center to increase its caseload by 25% to 201 cases, but this did not eliminate or even shorten the waiting list.
1957 – The Wilmington Child Guidance Center was approved as an Associate Member in the American Association of Psychiatric Clinics for Children. Furthermore, it was accepted as a member of the United Fund (now known as the United Way), having been recognized as an integral part of the childcare service in Wilmington.
1958 – The Center moved to rented space at 2013 Baynard Boulevard where it remained until 1974.
1962 – Financed by the United Fund, a second full team was added, enabling the Center to see more and more children and families every year. The population had grown rapidly in the Wilmington area, but within the city it had declined, causing many social and economic problems. Aware of these changes, the United Fund began to put pressure on the Center to broaden its services and public funding.
1971 – The Center changed its name to Delaware Guidance Services for Children and Youth, Inc. Children from any part of the state were then accepted for treatment and the Board began formulating plans to establish satellite clinics in other parts of the state. This was a preliminary step towards seeking public funding.
1972 – The first allocations in public funding were made by the State Legislature and the City of Newark through its Revenue Sharing Program.
1975 – DGS purchased and moved into its current headquarters at 1213 Delaware Avenue, a larger and more workable space for its program. Late afternoon and evening appointments were now available to clients and videotaping capability was added as a diagnostic and teaching aid. With an emphasis on Family Therapy, services in connection with identified children expanded to include Medication Therapy, Individual Psychotherapy, Parent Counseling, Marriage Counseling, Behavior Management, Play Therapy and Psychological Testing.
1978 – The Dover Clinic opened two days a week with professional staff commuting from Wilmington to temporary offices in the First Baptist Church of Dover.
1983 – The combined staff for both clinics was comprised of one full-time and two part-time child psychiatrists, eight full-time social workers, two full-time clinical psychologists, and two part-time educational specialists in learning disabilities and educational diagnosis.
1988 – A Day Treatment Program was started in Dover to serve children ages 6-12 who could not function and learn in a typical school setting. Funding was obtained from the Division of Child Mental Health to support the program.
1989 – Three new programs were launched. Bridges, a collaborative effort between DGS and the Christina School District, was developed to work with students at-risk for school failure. A treatment program was developed to meet the emotional needs of children and their parents in families with an AIDS victim. Finally, an interdisciplinary approach to serve the treatment needs of victims of incest and other sexual abuse and their families was developed.
1992 – The Sussex County United Way accepted DGS into membership and provided funding for a branch office in Georgetown. New counseling programs developed out of the Bridges Program utilizing DGS clinicians as therapists in the school setting in the Christina and Delmar School Districts.
1994 – The Board of Directors successfully undertook a capital campaign to raise $1.5M to expand, renovate and furnish the Wilmington facility, to purchase a computer system that would link all DGS sites together and better prepare DGS for changes in the health care field. DGS served 3,900 families.
1995 – The Sussex County facility in Georgetown was moved to Lewes. Several new programs were developed including:
Hospital Diversion Project, a collaborative effort with BlueCross BlueShield of Delaware. Intensive outpatient services were offered to children, adolescents and their families where the risk of hospitalization was imminent.
Sussex County Day Treatment Program
The Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families contracted with DGS to develop a Day Treatment Program for 6–12 year old children in Sussex County.
Provider Network Consultant (PNC)
With health care reform taking place throughout the nation and managed care organizations now dictating much of our funding, DGS developed a Provider Network that allows a core staff of salaried clinicians to be supplemented by consulting clinicians. This network increases our availability to children and families throughout the State, and better allows us to expand our services to the needs of the community.
Access to Community Treatment (ACT) Program
Through new contracts with the Division of Child Mental Health Services (now the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services), DGS added the ACT Program in Dover and Lewes which provides a 24-hour crisis line, community-based crisis response, and crisis bed care for children in crisis (Lewes only).
Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program
Statewide, this program provides community-based treatment for children at risk of hospitalization or more restrictive levels of treatment.
Para-professional staff in New Castle County work with current clients in providing support services that will improve the clients’ efforts to reach treatment goals.
1999 – The Board of Directors successfully undertook a capital campaign to raise $4.3 million to build new facilities in Dover and Lewes. DGS served over 9,000 families.
2000 – DGS doubled the size of its Newark outpatient offices to serve the growing need for services in southern New Castle County.
2001 – A new Dover facility opened its doors to the Kent County community. An office opened in Seaford to better meet the needs of residents in western Sussex County.
2002 – The Lewes facility was completed.
2005 – The Board of Directors undertook a $1.6M campaign to build a new facility in Seaford so that services could be expanded in this typically underserved population.
2008 – New Seaford facility opened. DGS became a leader in the state in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) with over ten certified therapists. The development of a comprehensive trauma treatment model was also undertaken.
2009 – ACT Crisis Services were renamed Child Priority Response Services (CPR) and were expanded in Lewes to include the Child Development Community Policing program (CD-CP). CD-CP offers state-wide immediate post-trauma counseling and follow-up care to youth and their caretakers to cope with the aftermath of violent and traumatic experiences.
In an effort to keep up with technology, build capacity and function more efficiently, DGS undertook a major initiative to convert to electronic clinical records. The new software system from Sequest Technologies was implemented statewide and includes electronic clinical records, electronic billing, human resources, environment of care and continuous quality improvement functions.
2010 - CPR and CD-CP services were extended to the Wilmington facility so that DGS crisis services are now available statewide. DGS is training staff in Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT); a successful treatment modality which focuses on young children with severe emotional issues. A recent grant from the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services will allow DGS to provide intensive home-based mental health services in Sussex County to children ages 2-5, and their families, who meet the criteria for PCIT services.
As we look to the future, we will strive to make our services more accessible by increasing our outreach into the community and forming new partnerships with other organizations. With the expansion of research on the brain and mental health issues, new and more effective treatments are being developed. DGS stands committed to keeping abreast of these new treatments and utilizing a best practice approach to making them available to our clients.