The mission of the Elaine Clark Center is to enable children of all abilities to become confident and contributing citizens of the community through an innovative model of education, therapeutic play and experiential opportunities.
Click to learn more about each of our programs for children of all abilities:
For five decades, the Elaine Clark Center has supported children with special needs and their families by providing an innovative model of education and therapeutic play. During the mid-1960s, Sister Robert Therese of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Atlanta began tutoring young children with developmental disabilities who were unable to attend traditional school. The center was incorporated in 1969 and has since built a reputation of providing superior support for children with special needs that have traditionally been underserved in the Metro Atlanta area. By working within our community, the center has realized many programming successes including transitioning programs when education laws changed in the 70s, as well as major state funding changes in the 90s. We were able to do this by being flexible and adapting programs to the needs of the community in order to provide relevant services to our consumers.
Our journey began in the 70s when the center served children up to the age of 20 with developmental disabilities by providing services to families during school hours which were not available in the public school system. As trends changed in the late 70s with IDEA laws mandating public K-12 education for children with developmental disabilities our program also changed. By the mid 80s the Center shifted focus to serving only children birth through three years old. During the next decade service ages increased to five years old following trends in early childhood programs and the need parents had for childcare. In the 90s the center became an inclusive child development program providing a diverse community of learners that benefited both typically developing children and children with special needs. The center was accredited by the National Association of Young Children (NAEYC) in 1999, and we have maintained our accreditation since then.
Because we are continually adapting to the needs of the community the center continued to grow and enhance programs as we entered a new century. In 2001, the Frank Clark Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in order to assure children had access to services regardless of their families’ financial means. Then in 2003, the center's leadership launched its community outreach initiative, aiming to integrate child development, social services and educational training to meet the needs of young children at risk for developmental delay. In 2007, a therapy program was added to the expanding program to meet the speech, occupational and physical therapeutic needs of children. During the summer of 2009, the center merged with Heart of Hope Academy, an accredited nonprofit organization that served children with developmental challenges between the ages of five and 22. The merger established the center as Atlanta’s foremost nonprofit agency providing comprehensive services for children and young adults with special needs ages six weeks to 22 years. In 2010, the center embarked on a $3.5 million capital campaign to double the size of the facility. In 2018, we completed the building, adding 9000 square feet to our facility.
2019 marked our 50th Birthday, a renewed commitment to programming services and the true end of our construction project. The new facility has allowed the center to increase the highest age of program participants from 22 to 25, as well as adding additional classrooms for both the Out of School Services and Child Development programs. In addition to increasing current classroom space, the center also launched ECC Life which is a new program serving young adults until the age of 25, assisting families through the transition process from school to adult programming. In the 2020s, we look forward to continuing the expansion of programs and increasing our outreach in the community. Not only do we look forward to serving more families, but as our local community changes we look forward to partnering with our new neighbors to continue the tradition of services at the Elaine Clark Center.