Mission and History

Heal a Child, Heal a Community

Our Mission

The Children's Center provides comprehensive mental health care to enhance the emotional well-being of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families.

Our History

Founded in 1962 by Agnes M. Plenk Ph.D., The Children's Center had it’s beginnings as a nursery school in a community church. One little boy was quite disruptive and Dr. Plenk (fondly known as Agi) had to explain to his parents that he could no longer attend. His mother was terribly distressed and exclaimed, “You are the one person in the community who has the training to help us and you're turning us away?" This conversation was transformational and inspired Agi to create The Children’s Center. Over the next 20 years she created an agency that included two sites, one in Salt Lake City and one in Kearns as well as a group home for very young children. Her unique relationship based model has changed the lives of tens of thousands of children in our community.

In 1986 Agi asked Dr. Kristina Hindert to assume the leadership of the agency. Dr. Hindert expanded the agency’s mission to include even younger children by creating a mother-toddler program.  In addition, given the increasing demands of referrals for help she recognized the need to develop a consultation model for local day care and preschool programs.  This outreach, which continues today, provides critically needed training to insure access to quality care and, as well, to help identify and correct early signs of behavior problems.  She also helped develop statewide training programs to provide consultation and training to enable professionals to provide care to young children in their own communities.

Dr. Douglas Goldsmith, who began his career as a volunteer at The Children’s Center became the Executive Director in 1995. Under his care The Center relocated to downtown Salt Lake in order to create the space critically needed to expand services. His work on the clinical application of attachment theory has not only impacted our clinical services at The Center but also inspired the creation of an annual community training that enlightens clinicians from across the state to utilize attachment theory to help heal parent-child relationships. In 2009 The Children’s Center became a partner of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) which has transformed our trauma program at The Center. Today the clinical team proudly provides evidence based treatments to help children and families exposed to traumatic events lead happier, healthier lives.

From our humble beginnings in a community church The Children’s Center has grown to employ a staff of 100 people who are dedicated to improving the lives of young children. As the largest agency of our kind we now provide care to over 2,000 families annually. And our generous friends and community provide over $1.5 million in donations each year that enable us to provide compassionate care to every child who needs our help.