Our History

Throughout our history, the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development (GUCCHD) has supported the most marginalized groups in an effort to create a more inclusive and stronger society. Today we focus our work around health disparities and other inequities experienced by children and youth with special health care needs and behavioral health challenges and their families, as well as individuals across the life span with disabilities. Importantly, as we address equity in our mission, we incorporate a special focus on gender issues and cultural and linguistic competence.

Through the years, our Center has maintained a distinguished presence in the fields of early intervention, developmental disabilities, behavioral health, and cultural competence. Decades ago, we launched one of the first high-risk infant follow-up initiatives in the nation including what was then called an “infant stimulation” program and a toddler/preschool diagnostic nursery. This effort served as a precursor to the highly developed early intervention services, research, workforce development, technical assistance, and policy formulation programs in our Center today.

Addressing the behavioral health needs of children and families has characterized major innovations created by our Center over the last decades. In our early years the GUCCHD implemented the first Child Life and Art Therapy programs at Georgetown University hospital; established interdisciplinary clinical teams that included mental health professionals for renal dialysis, cancer, and pulmonary disease; and was the home of faculty responsible for founding the field of Pediatric Psychology. Importantly, for over 30 years our Center has led the movement to implement effective systems of care in every state and territory in this nation for children with mental health challenges.

Because of our Center’s deep expertise in service systems development, we have been at the heart of other major service system changes as well. Our Center was a catalyst for the movement for family centered, community based care for children with special health care needs as well as for launching the concept of medical homes to better integrate services for those children and their families. Through our work, we engaged family partners in developing systems change strategies for each and every state and territory, championing culturally competent services and approaches. For decades, we have played a key leadership role in promoting cultural competency at both the organizational and individual level.

One of the proudest moments in the history of our Center was the day Forest Haven, an archaic residential institution serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities closed its doors. We played a central role in preparing residents to move into the community and in implementing the transition. As a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), this exemplifies the role we continue to play in assuring quality services and inclusive environments for individuals with disabilities.

Starting in the 1990s, our Center extended its expertise globally. We became a focal point for reformers working in early childhood education in more than 30 Central and Eastern European countries. Our Center continues to have a global impact through its work and partnerships with international organizations and academic institutions. In 2020 the center added a major global component on gender and health focusing on social norms, reproductive health, and gender-based violence.


Pioneer for Persons with Disabilities.

Fulfilling Our Mission Video
Intensive Care Nursery of Georgetown University Hospital, 1972.

Fulfilling Our Mission Video
Forest Haven: CC Image courtesy of StudioTempura on Flickr.

Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development is a designated University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.