The Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families Celebrates 20 Years in 2020

How the Center emerged as a hub for community-based children’s services for at-risk kids throughout Central Florida.

How we Started

The Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families, then known as the Arnold Palmer Hospital Center for Children & Families, began as an effort to bring six vital programs together under one organization, creating a unified system of help and hope for those affected by childhood developmental delays, adolescent health concerns, child abuse, HIV/AIDS and intergenerational child abuse.   

  • The Developmental Center for Infants & Children/Early Steps, formed in 1978, as an early intervention program that provides evaluation and treatment services for children up to the age of three who have developmental delays and special needs.  

  • Teen Xpress, formed in 1997, is a mobile healthcare unit that provides medical, nutrition and mental health services to underinsured and uninsured youth in Orange County.  

  • HUG-Me*, formed in 1994, was a specialized program that offered medical care and counseling for women, children and families infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. *Later transferred to the county health department. 

  • Healthy Families Orange, formed in 1995, is a home visitation program based on the national Healthy Families America model that is proven to prevent child maltreatment through education, referrals and resources.  

All of these programs existed separately in various parts of Orlando Health prior to being united as the Center for Children & Families in the early 1990s. The programs were brought together in an effort to strengthen their missions and broaden their services throughout the Central Florida community.  

Celebrating the Last 20 Years  

In 1987, an incredibly generous gift from the late Mr. Ken Smith and his family allowed a former office supply warehouse on Michigan Street in Orlando to become the home for Orlando Health services, including the Visiting Nurses Association.   

Then in the late 1990’s, a community task force determined that Orlando needed a Children’s Advocacy Center to better serve abused and neglected children in a more child-friendly setting.  The Center for Children & Families’ leadership had been very involved in this task force, as had representatives from local law enforcement agencies, the State Attorney’s Office, the Department of Children and Families, and mental health agencies.  Dr. Ann Manley from Dr. Phillips Charities was also engaged with this local task force, which began searching for a facility to house a local Children’s Advocacy Center in earnest at the end of 1998.   


Orlando Health was approached about providing space for the program and the facility at 601 W. Michigan Street was donated for the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), as well as The Developmental Center for Infants & Children/Early Steps.  The Center for Children and Families agreed to administer the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) program, which incorporated the Child Protection Team and what is now known as The Healing Tree with the support of a five-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.   This grant also added Child Advocate positions to the CAC, to help fill the gap identified by the task force for families’ emergent needs that arise in child abuse cases.  

The facility remodeling and expansion required significant capital investments and the Central Florida community stepped up to the plate, including Dr. Phillips Charities and Universal Studios.  

In January 2000, in appreciation of Dr. Phillips Charities’ tremendous contributions to the Center, the Arnold Palmer Hospital Center for Children & Families officially became The Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families.   

On January 18, 2000, an official grand opening ceremony was held to honor visionary community members who helped form the Children’s Advocacy Center, as well as other lead gifts provided by Universal Studios, the Community Foundation of Central Florida, Darden and&nbsxfp;the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, Inc.

Thus, The Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families emerged on the local scene as a conveniently located hub for community-based children’s services for at-risk kids.    

Help us Prepare for the Next 20 Years 

In the last 20 years, The Howard Phillips Center has grown to employ more than 185 team members, providing critical care to over 20,000 children and families every year. Moving forward, as the demand for community-based services increases month-by-month, philanthropy is a key component to the Center’s ability to provide service.  

Join us as part of this community’s safety net of care for our most vulnerable children and families. Visit to learn how you can become involved.  




The Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families

At The Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families, we provide children and families a support system and resources so they don’t have to face overwhelming challenges alone. Anyone who asks for help will receive it.

Learn More

Related Articles