A History of Family Service Agency

In 1938 a small group of citizens who were conscious of community needs petitioned the Little Rock Community Council to make a survey of the needs of greater Little Rock. The Community Council made a formal recommendation in 1941 that a private Family Service agency be established in Little Rock.

With United Fund support, the agency began operation on July 15, 1942, with a Director, one caseworker, and a secretary.  The agency was incorporated in January 1946, under provision of Act 176-Law 963 of the Arkansas General Assembly.  The original purpose of the non-profit corporation was “to foster the development of wholesome family life and to strengthen the family and the community by use of staff members equipped by training, experience, and ability to help families to achieve a normal life; and to participate in local, state and national movements which seek to eliminate conditions that lessen opportunities of individuals of families to attain their fullest possible development.”  This was accomplished through the provision of individual, marriage and environmental counseling services, emergency financial assistance, funds to purchase milk, and foster home care for children.

In June 1948, the agency became a pre-member affiliate of the Family Service Association of America.  Upon implementation of specific recommendations, the agency was accepted into full membership in December 1950 and remains an active member.  The agency is also a member of the National Foundation for Consumer Credit and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and children and the State Office on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention.

Until the late sixties, Family Service received the majority of its funds from the United Way and fee income.  When federal funds began to support “war on poverty” programs, the agency received funding in 1966 to develop and implement services in low-income predominantly minority communities in Little Rock.  A Parent Education and Community Organization Program, beginning originally as Project Enable with the local Urban League, was funded through 1971.  This program received a national award from the Family Service Association of America in 1969.  A Home Educators service in Model Cities Neighborhoods was funded through 1974.

In 1969, the receipt of state funds made it possible to add additional staff and to open an outpatient mental health clinic at Jacksonville.  With increased funding for mental health services during the 1970’s, the agency opened clinics in Lonoke, Cabot, Des Arc, Sherwood, Sweet Home, Northwest and Southwest Pulaski County.

In 1974, a drug rehabilitation outpatient program was funded by the Arkansas Office on Drug Abuse and Prevention.  In 1976, funds were obtained through the State of Arkansas Public Safety Department to operate an alcohol safety education program for DWI offenders referred by the Jacksonville, Sherwood, Lonoke and Prairie County Courts.  The Office of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also funded the agency in 1976 to provide counseling services for alcohol abusers and their families in Pulaski, Lonoke and Prairie Counties.  

In 1976, the Family Service Agency of Central Arkansas (the agency name at that time) cooperated with several other agencies in the catchment area to establish the Central Arkansas Mental Health Services, Inc. in order to acquire a planning grant to study the mental health needs in the catchment area.  A planning grant of $75,000 was approved in September of 1976, for Central Arkansas Mental Health Services, Inc.

In October 1978, CAMHS, Inc. received a federal mental health operations grant for the years 1977 through 1979.  Family Service became a subcontractor to provide comprehensive mental health services in the mental health catchment area of Pulaski County which encircles the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock.  In December 1980, CAMHS terminated its contract for comprehensive services and entered into a limited contract with the agency on January 1, 1981, for individual, marriage and family counseling, alcohol and drug abuse counseling, and specialized counseling for elderly citizens.  This contract was terminated on September 30, 1982, thereby ending the agency’s receipt of state and federal mental health funds and 15 years of formal involvement with the mental health system of service delivery.  The agency also concluded its involvement in all office sites developed during the 1970’s and continued operation only out of the North Little Rock office.

In July 1983, the agency implemented a Consumer Credit Counseling Service for persons with personal family financial management problems.

The DWI program expanded in the fall of 1984 when the Mid-South Center of the UALR Graduate School of Social Work was absorbed by the agency.  As a result, the agency also serves DWI offenders referred by the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Courts.

A major decision was made in early 1985 to continue the Agency’s Consumer Credit Counseling Service even though the program faced a critical funding shortfall.  Additional funding was secured from contributors and United Way to continue the program.  The Agency also held its first fund raising benefits for the maintenance of the CCCS program.

With increased demands for services, it was necessary in 1986 to consolidate programmatic gains, expand and strengthen clerical support services and streamline the internal operating procedures.  The Agency also received certification for outpatient drug/alcohol treatment services from the State Office on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention.

The pattern of stable and steady growth in services for 45 years continued throughout 1987.  The growth included expanding the GAIN family life educational program in Lonoke and Prairie Counties, providing drug abuse treatment and credit counseling to a record number of clients while also receiving four year accreditation from the Council on Accreditation of Service to Families and Children.

Close to 6000 different families were served by the agency in 1988.  A satellite office was opened in Hazen, Arkansas and new focus groups for alcohol abusers were initiated.  The agency also purchased a minicomputer system and state of the art software for the Consumer Credit Counseling Service.    

The agency concluded 1989 with increased community support.  The agency received certification from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide mortgage default and rent delinquency counseling, a new service available through the CCCS division.  The CCCS debt management program returned over one million dollars to the community during the year.  The agency was also studying the development of offices for the CCCS in other cities in the state.

The nineties opened with the continuation of a variety of counseling and educational services which involved the opening of a branch office in southwest Little Rock and a satellite office in Hot Springs of Consumer Credit Counseling Service, and participation in a multi-agency project for the provision of case management services to high-risk youth by New Futures for Little Rock Youth.  The staff of the agency were also involved in professional development activities and in addressing issues related to the working environment as they also faced the new decade ahead.

A pattern of stable and steady growth in the programs of the agency continued throughout the early 1990’s which also included moving the agency administrative offices to their current location.  

In 1995 the substance abuse program entered into a new contract with the Arkansas Department of Corrections Community Punishment Program to offer intensive outpatient treatment to clients who are on probation or parole.

In 1996 the agency expanded in staff, services and locations.  The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation provided funding to open CCCS offices in Conway, Russellville and Searcy.  CCCS was also the recipient of the 1996 Creative Counseling Outreach Pace Award for their collaboration with Helping Hand, Inc.  Through collaboration with Little Rock Municipal Court, the agency was able to provide domestic violence intervention groups to the perpetrators of domestic violence.  A grant from the Arkansas Commission on Child Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence allowed the Prevention Services to provide rape prevention services to the surrounding areas.  The agency also entered into an arrangement with the City of Little Rock to provide outreach and crisis services to victims of domestic violence.

The agency began 1997 with the Board of Directors completing a 3-year strategic plan and developing a new vision, mission and value statements to guide the agency.  The agency also developed new programs during that year.  The Victim Service program, partially funded through a Victims of Crime Act grant, administered through the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration and located at the Little Rock Police Department, provides support, information and referral assistance to victims of crimes in cases where no one has been charged with a crime or prior to the referral of the case for prosecution.  The agency also received a 2-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education for FAST (Families and Schools Together) to work with students who experience academic and behavioral problems  

The Agency opened the Sexual Assault Center in 1998.  The SAC is funded through a grant from the U. S. Department of Justice.  The Alcohol Safety Education Program also expanded services to Monroe, Lee and Philllips counties through a contract addition from the Arkansas Department of Highway and Transportation.  CCCS increased services in their Pine Bluff and Hot Springs offices and established Advisory Boards in Springdale, Fort Smith and Conway.  CCCS was also in the initial planning stages of opening an office in Greenville, Mississippi.

The expansion of programs begun in 1998 produced a tremendous increase in clients served in 1999.  The CCCS Homebuyer Education Workshops alone produced an increase in attendance by 225%.  The Behavioral Health Services department including all the psycho-educational services produced a 230% increase in services hours and a four-fold increase in the number of clients served.  The CCCS plan to open an office in Greenville was finally realized.  With the growing need for bilingual services, CCCS began offering its services in Spanish, augmented by conference and media outreach to the Hispanic populations.

The year 2000 again saw the agency developing programs to meet the needs of the community.  A Transparenting program was begun to help parents and children cope with the trauma of divorce.  The DARE to be You program is a family strengthening tool that provides parenting classes, child-parent interaction, teen peer-group sessions and many other skills to the families of preschool children.  The Sexual Assault Center extended coverage from its original 5 counties to 9 counties and the Sexual Assault Prevention Program extended its services from 6 counties to 12 counties.  The agency has also cultivated a volunteer base that provided over 38,000 hours of service to clients and the agency.

Ever mindful of its vision, mission and values, Family Service Agency continues to grow and evolve to serve the community.