/////UAMS Says Goodbye to Child Study Center Building
UAMS Says Goodbye to Child Study Center Building 2018-01-05T09:16:52+00:00

MARCH 7, 2006 | Not long after the Child Study Center opened in 1969, John “Pete” Peters, M.D., and his son, Phillip, planted trees around the new building. The now stately pines and the building must soon be removed to make way for campus expansion, but the roots of child psychiatry, nurtured by Peters, Sam Clements, Ph.D., and others have grown beyond the building and are thriving under the care of the UAMS Department of Psychiatry.


“It was an uphill battle,” Peters said recently of the effort to build the Child Study Center. Peters has retired to Hope, but spent an afternoon remembering his work as the first child psychiatrist in Arkansas and the director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.


Peters and others knew there was a great need for pediatric mental health services in the state, but in the general public, mental health was seen as an adult problem. “Everyone was resistant to me, but they liked to have me come and talk,” he laughed. Eventually, a collaborative effort led to a $1million federal grant for the facility.


The Child Study Center was the base of the child component of the Greater Little Rock Community Mental Health Center. The center provided outpatient services, consultations for children from across the state, and educational services in a classroom setting for children from the three school districts in Pulaski County.


 “It was a wonderful place, better than I had envisioned,” Peters remembered of the bustling center filled with children, teachers, medical students, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. He said there was nothing else like it anywhere and it soon became a model for the nation.


“There were days when Sam and I were working together – it was just wonderful,” he said, remembering the innovative services and cutting-edge research developed at the center. Peters stayed in contact with many of his patients through the years and said many did well in life, at least in part to the services they received in their youth.


Pat Youngdahl, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department, remembers, “They had a very good partnership. Pete and Sam had many great ideas and their personalities and skills complemented each other.”


Children would come on buses from public schools and file into classrooms in the bottom floor of the building. A playground, tennis courts and a basketball court surrounded the center. Part of the hospital’s seventh floor was designated for children who spent the day at the Child Study Center and slept in the hospital. While the center treated many children with varying disorders, Peters said he didn’t recall any major conflicts between the children.


“There was a lot of education going on at the center, even in the summer,” Peters said, remembering how teachers from the school districts would come in to learn how to work with children with learning disabilities. A summer program for the children included arts and crafts and music, and culminated with a program at the end of the session for their parents.


Peters also talked about the many contributions volunteers made. Several people from the community worked to raise money for the center and the playgrounds. The Scottish Rite Freemasons gave $5,000 a year for 10 years to the center. The Working Women’s Home and Day Nursery Center (WOHDAN) also supported the center and created a chair for the division of child psychiatry.


“It was a study center as well as a service,” Peters said of how the school setting allowed the researchers to collect information, while providing clinical services.


The center was a launching pad for many projects, and Peters and Clements traveled the globe, from Greece, to Saudi Arabia to Australia, sharing about the center and their research into Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, then identified as minimal brain dysfunction.


In 1988 the Child Study Center outgrew its walls and moved to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where the program still provides services to children from across the state. Adolescents now are seen at the Blandford Building on the St. Vincent Infirmary campus.