PITTSBURGH CHILD GUIDANCE FOUNDATION HISTORY
1982 – 2016
The legacy of the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation (PCGF) is one of a small, hard-working and thoughtful grant maker which has consistently evolving to create the strongest possible impact on the lives of the region’s most vulnerable children.
While it has redefined over the years, PCGF remains true to its beginnings – still educating, advocating and supporting children’s mental health and well-being as it did at its inception 85 years ago.
The Foundation was established in 1982 as the successor to the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Center (PCGC founded in 1931 to provide psychiatric services to children and their families, train mental health professionals, conduct research and promote mental hygiene in the community. The Foundation upholds its founding tradition directing resources and advocacy to the support of children’s mental health and care.
From Clinic to Foundation
On January 1, 1982, PCGC transferred its services to Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and began operations as a foundation. In the early years, the Foundation discovered ways to create impact with limited resources, and primarily funded proposals to support research or services to children with diagnosable, severe emotional disturbances. While grant sizes varied, the focus remained on mental health of children 18 years and younger residing in the seven counties of western Pennsylvania that had been served by the Center.
Foundation Takes Shape
In 1987, the identity of the Foundation began to crystalize. The sale of its Oakland facility on DeSoto Street to the University of Pittsburgh significantly increased its endowment. With these changes, the Board of Trustees engaged in a long-range planning process during which led to a revision in the structure of its grant making. Two-thirds of the Foundation’s distribution would fund multi-year program grants (in response to the Foundation’s call for proposals) while the remaining one-third would provide small awards to applicants who identified needs and requested support. This new grant making strategy defined the Foundation for the next decade.
Focus on Prevention
As the Foundation approached its 15th anniversary in 1997, the founding Executive Director announced plans to retire. This convergence sparked the desire of the Board and Executive to engage in a strategic planning process to assess the organization’s accomplishments and chart the course for the future. The process resulted in a series of decisions designed to increase and expand the impact of this small Foundation.
This strategy focused on:
- Narrowing the Foundation’s scope to serving children aged 12 and younger
- Narrowing the geographic focus to Allegheny County
- Devoting at least half of its grant making to one significant issue over period of three to five years
- Reaffirming its focus on prevention rather than treatment.
Helping Children Learn Coping Skills and Build Competence
The first Area of Emphasis was selected following a community-wide survey and extensive planning by the Board. In 1998, each of seven primarily faith-based and grass roots organizations received funding of $25,000 a year (renewable up to five years). The Board built in an evaluation process to learn from its experience and incorporated these lessons in the 2002 planning process for its next initiative.
Foundations deliberations on choosing its next area of focus resulted in the addition of two new criteria: The initiative should be both compelling and sustainable. The Foundation was interested in addressing an issue affecting a large and growing number of children that was not yet on people’s radar but had the potential to garner attention and support from other private and public partners.
Address the Losses Experienced by Children Whose Parents are Incarcerated
Following a careful planning process, the Board unanimously approved helping the community ADDRESS THE LOSSES EXPERIENCED BY CHILDREN WHOSE PARENTS ARE INCARCERATED as its Area of Emphasis from 2003-12. Throughout the decade, the Foundation applied the majority of its resources to achieve four goals: To document what happens to children of prisoners, share what was learned with the community, convene key stakeholders to address the issues and join with public and private partners to create policies and practices to strengthen the emotional lives of children of incarcerated parents.
Over the initiative’s 10-year course, the Foundation issued three Reports to the Community summarizing the results of its learning and efforts to improve the lives of children impacted by the incarceration of their parents. Expanded versions of these digest were also produced to provide a fuller picture of a decade of work to change lives and change systems. As well, several educational videos were produced to encourage support and participation from various stakeholders. One video served the legal community; another amplified the voices of the incarcerated on the importance of staying involved with the family while incarcerated.
25 Years of Service
In celebration of the Foundation’s 25th anniversary, supporters were invited to make contributions to honor “Champions for Children” – individuals successfully impacting the community with minimal resources. The campaign raised more than $25,000.
In December 2012, the Foundation’s second Executive Director announced her retirement.
The second Area of Emphasis renewed the Foundation’s commitment to public education and advocacy and strengthened the Foundation as an independent voice for children in Allegheny County. While wrapping up several projects related to the Children of the Incarcerated initiative, the Board voted to engage in a strategic decision making process that would consider the ongoing questions on achieving maximum impact as a small foundation and set the course for its future.
At the annual meeting, the inaugural “Champions for Children” awards were presented to two organizations The Pittsburgh Promise and Hilltop Community Healthcare Center.
Serving Families with Young Children Who are Experiencing Homelessness
In April 2014, the Board approved and launched its third initiative: SERVING FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN WHO ARE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS.
Conversations with numerous leaders of social service organizations led to the development of a training series provided courtesy of PCGF for direct service providers working in the shelter care system, a profession where employment turnover naturally creates significant challenges.
Direct assistance has been provided to numerous agencies in support of programs that mitigate the circumstances of those experiencing homelessness. These efforts include supporting the development of an app for mobile phones (as well as desktops) that enables those experiencing homelessness and service providers to access a myriad of accurate, relevant services; and research and planning grants that address policy issues. The Foundation has provided grants to sponsor children living in shelters for summer camp; purchase equipment and toys; provide financing for small grants that can be the determining factor in a family’s ability to remain in a home or become homeless.
The Board of Trustees and staff will continue to collaborate with community partners to identify then address the needs of children living in Allegheny County.
Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation is committed to making a significant and positive difference in the lives of children who through no fault of their own find themselves in difficult situations that can have a lasting impact on their lives and future.