The USF Center for Child and Family Development (CCFD) was founded in 1983 by Brian Gerrard, Ph.D., our Executive Director, and Emily Girault, Ph.D., in San Francisco's Mission District after one of the Catholic school principals asked USF for help. Because of USF's commitment to service and to quality education, a positive response was immediate. In a very short time there were fourteen USF Marriage and Family Therapy trainees placed in fourteen of the Mission cluster schools for the academic year.
Originally called the Catholic Schools Family Counseling Program, the first trainees were part of a new form of counseling called School-Based Family Counseling in which the counselor at the school helps children with problems by working with the entire family. The trainees are supervised by both individual and group supervisors from USF. The "Mission Possible Program" is so called because this watershed University outreach benefits families and children who do not normally use family counseling services in the community, and therefore, are thought of as almost impossible to help.
The University-school partnership was successful and more schools asked for this much needed assistance. In 1987 the program was expanded to include public schools and in 1990 the name was changed to the Center for Child and Family Development.
The Mission Possible Program is currently in thirty-six private and public schools in San Francisco, including eleven Catholic schools, and is the largest School-Based Family Counseling Program in the United States. Principals universally praise the program and frequently cite stories of significant breakthroughs with children. Invariably they ask how they ever did without a School-Based Family Counselor. Many principals have requested additional days of service by the School-Based Family Counselor in their schools and twenty principals of the more financially sound schools have hired their School-Based Family Counselors from among USF graduates.
School-Based counselors do not charge for their services to students and families. Instead, each participating school pays USF a stipend for each trainee or intern to cover supervision and program expenses. Administered by the Dean of the School of Education, Dr. Walter Gmelch, and an Executive Director, Dr. Brian Gerrard, the Center has a staff of ten including six licensed mental health practitioners. The Center's Board of Directors is chaired by Walter Steiss and the Honorary Advisory Board is directed by Fr. John Lo Schiavo, S.J., Chancellor of USF.
The Center is able to do remarkable amounts of work, in spite of a slim budget, thanks to the combined efforts of all counselors and staff. With around thirty active interns and trainees, four group supervisors, and fifteen individual supervisors, the Center for Child and Family Development has roughly 1 FTE of administrative staff. In comparison, a community psychotherapy institute in a neighboring county, with about 20 counselors (including interns), has 2 FTE administrative staff. Our administrators depend on each counselor to contribute his or her energies and special gifts in order to make the enterprise thrive. The Center's work adheres to USF's core mission of education and justice for all peoples, especially the poor and culturally diverse.