San Diego Center for Children to celebrate 130th anniversary in May


Next year marks a major milestone for San Diego Center for Children.

Having served children and families throughout San Diego County for decades, San Diego Center for Children celebrates its 130th anniversary in 2017.

“It’s an opportunity to acknowledge our rich history, and it’s also an opportunity to engage the San Diego community to learn more about San Diego Center for Children,” said Executive Director Moisés Barón, Ph.D.

Founded in 1887, San Diego Center for Children is the oldest children’s nonprofit in the region, currently serving children and families struggling with emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges.

“To appropriately respond to the needs of children and families, we have a range of programs,” Barón said. “We have a presence throughout the whole county.”

About one in five children, or 20 percent, suffer from a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Within eight locations and hundreds of homes throughout San Diego County, San Diego Center for Children provides prevention, assessment, transition, outpatient therapy, school-based therapies, education, wraparound, foster care and residential treatment programs for children, youth and their families.

In addition to San Diego Center for Children Academy, a nonpublic school accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, San Diego Center for Children manages two programs within schools in Carlsbad and the South Bay that give students hand-in-hand counseling and skill-building within their school day. The nonprofit organization also partners with San Diego County to provide therapeutic services to children and youth in foster care.

“We’re able to respond to the individual needs of children and families by ensuring that they get the appropriate treatment and services for their needs,” Barón said. “By being able to appropriately identify and intervene with the appropriate service, we’re able to help families feel empowered and help youth have the ability to achieve their full potential.”

San Diego Center for Children started in 1887 as The Women’s Home Association in downtown San Diego. The organization provided care to destitute and helpless women — many of them with children.

Over time, the organization began providing more support and services to children. The association opened a nursery in the late 1980s, relocated from Balboa Park to Kearny Mesa in 1959, and finally changed its name to San Diego Center for Children in 1975.

With a mission to protect the joy of childhood, prevent emotional suffering and incite change, today San Diego Center for Children reaches more than 1,000 children and families throughout the region every day.

“When you look at the history, you can see that the organization has really adapted to the changing needs of the population that it was serving,” Barón said.

Barón joined the organization as CEO more than two years ago.

Among the organization’s accomplishments in that time, Barón said he is proud that San Diego Center for Children obtained reaccreditation from the Joint Commission. All of San Diego Center for Children’s therapeutic programs, Barón said, are accredited by the Joint Commission, an independent, nonprofit organization that accredits more than 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States.

San Diego Center for Children has close to 360 employees. The organization, Barón said, also currently has 26 trainees from different professional programs in the region and beyond.

“I’m proud of the work our staff does,” Barón said. “We definitely have a very passionate and skilled staff. We have a very engaged board, we have a very engaged advisory council, and we have very engaged volunteers. They really come together to serve the needs of some of the most underserved and at-risk children and youth in our county.”

Looking forward to the future, Barón said he wants San Diego Center for Children to be identified as a leader and innovator in providing effective therapeutic and educational services to children with mental, emotional and behavioral disorders, as well as their families.

San Diego Center for Children, Barón said, also aims to improve access to care to families in need. The organization, he said, would also like to be recognized as a top multidisciplinary training site for mental health and educational professionals.

“You cannot just be thinking about your past and your history, you need to constantly be thinking about the future and what the community needs and will need, and how we can be responsive,” Barón said. “We do have a vision for the future.”

San Diego Center for Children is celebrating its 130th anniversary with a gala planned for May 4 at San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina.

The organization is also inviting the community to participate in Wacky Wonky Wonderland to spread holiday cheer to the children and families served by San Diego Center for Children. There will be live music, special holiday activities, and festive food and drinks. The cost of admission is an unwrapped toy or gift card worth $25 or more, or a monetary donation to the center.

The holiday event takes place 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11 at the center’s main campus at 3002 Armstrong Street, San Diego. For more information or to RSVP, visit

For more about San Diego Center for Children, or to donate or volunteer, visit

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