About Us

History: Serving Children Since 1917

1917 ~ 1920

Harvey Humphrey Baker was appointed the first judge of the Boston Juvenile Court by Governor Curtis Guild in 1906.  Judge Harvey Baker believed strongly that there was more to “juvenile delinquency” than just a “bad kid.” He wanted to create a place where research and treatment could help these children and their families.

Judge Harvey Baker’s lifelong friend, Judge Frederick P. Cabot turned his late friend’s dream into a reality. The “Judge Baker Foundation” was incorporated in 1917 and Judge Frederick P. Cabot served as the first president of the Board of Trustees.  The first offices for the Foundation were established at 40 Court Street in Boston.  Dr. William Healy and Dr. Augusta Bronner were brought from Chicago and appointed as co-directors of the new Judge Baker Foundation. The original focus of the Foundation was on diagnostic studies and treatment recommendations for “delinquent” boys and girls brought into the Boston Juvenile Court.


During the 1920’s, more than 50% of the children receiving help at the Judge Baker Foundation were referred by the Boston Juvenile Court.  Most were adolescent boys from economically disadvantaged families.

In 1927 Drs. Healy and Bronner worked together to produce a comprehensive handbook of “mental tests,” tests that helped the psychologists determine the child’s mental aptitude.  During this time period, it was the general belief that a child’s mental aptitude determined the severity of their mental illness. Ahead of their time, Dr. Healy was an innovator in the practice of presenting the child’s story in the child’s own words rather than in those of the parents or caregivers; and Dr. Bronner held a series of well attended lectures regarding the negative impact of movies on child conduct.  She posited that “The influence of the motion picture definitely affects the mental, physical and moral conduct of the child”.


To start the decade, President Herbert Hoover invited Judge Frederick P. Cabot, Dr. Healey and Dr. Bronner to the “White House Conference on Child Health and Protection” on November 19, 1930.   By the time the Judge Baker Foundation moving to its own building at 38 ½ Beacon Street in Boston, more than 7,000 children and their families had received services from Judge Baker. By 1935, the Judge Baker Foundation was treating a broad diagnostic and socioeconomic range of children and families. 


When Drs. Healy and Bronner retired in 1947, Dr. George E. Gardner was appointed as the new director of the Judge Baker Foundation.  He was a pediatrician/psychiatrist and also served as the first clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the first psychiatrist-in-chief at Children’s Hospital Boston.    The Judge Baker Foundation changed its name to the “Judge Baker Guidance Center.”

 During these years, Judge Baker Guidance Center broadened its outpatient and residential  services, and emerged from this decade as the largest child guidance clinic in the country and one of the first agencies to receive federal support for training in child psychiatry and psychology.


By the 1950’s, over 15,000 cases had been handled by Judge Baker since its founding in1917.  Annual caseloads increased to 2,000 from the original 350 in 1917.  During this decade, Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital established their affiliation with Judge Baker Guidance Center.

Judge Baker grew again when Hiram E. Manville, Jr. granted Judge Baker $2 million to build a new building, which was completed in 1957.  Judge Baker Guidance Center moved to the new building near Boston Children’s Hospital at 3 Blackfan Circle and the new Manville School opened its doors.


Judge Baker Guidance Center marked its 50th year of providing services to children in this decade.  Family Therapy was introduced as an important treatment modality. Still under the leadership of Dr. Gardner, Judge Baker launched professional training projects and gradually expanded its range of clinical services to meet changing societal needs.  The Newton Baker Project began to study the effectiveness of traditional intervention strategies for delinquency.


Judge Baker, in collaboration with Children’s Hospital, restructured its residential division into a twenty-seven bed medical-psychiatric unit for treating children with psychosomatic illnesses. When Dr. Gardner retired, Julius B. Richmond, MD became the Director. Dr. Richmond was later appointed US Surgeon General and Assistant Secretary for Health during President Carter's administration.

In response to the societal pressures children were confronted with during this decade, prevention and early intervention projects were incorporated into Judge Baker’s services.  By then, Judge Baker Guidance Center was treating over 1,000 children each year.


When Dr. Richmond left for his new post in Washington D.C. Dr. Stanley Walzer became the new Director.

Judge Baker adapted its mission to include programs aimed at helping adolescents combat the peer pressures of drug abuse and teen pregnancy.  Judge Baker Guidance Center changed its name once again and was now known as “Judge Baker Children’s Center,” reflecting the expansion of its mission to include broader social programs focused on early childhood services.

The New England Association of Child Welfare Commissioners and Directors joined Judge Baker Children’s Center in this decade. Child Welfare leaders from the six New England states created the Association in an effort to develop and implement policies to promote improved child welfare practices.

Further expanding its child welfare services, Judge Baker Children's Center contracted with the Department of Social Services (DSS, now known as the Department of Children and Families (DCF)) to operate a twenty-four hour child-at-risk hotline.


Leadership would change once again as Dr. Stanley Walzer stepped down and Stuart T. Hauser, MD, PhD became the new director of Judge Baker Children's Center.

The Mentoring Program began at the Manville School during the 90's. This program paired Manville School students with Harvard Medical and Dental School “big brothers” and “big sisters” for weekly two hour visits. The program included training sessions for the Harvard students with Manville staff.  Harvard Medical School was so pleased with the program that it became an elective of the school’s course offerings.

“Voices of Love and Freedom,” a literacy and prevention program at Judge Baker, was adopted by the Boston School Committee for use in all Boston public schools.  This program used multi-cultural literature to teach children about avoiding substance abuse and violence and encouraged reading and healthy relationships at home.


John R. Weisz, PhD, ABPP became the President and CEO of Judge Baker Children’s Center in 2004.  During that same year, Judge Baker relocated to a new facility at 53 Parker Hill Avenue in the Mission Hill section of Boston.

This decade brought with it the 100th Anniversary of the Boston Juvenile Court which Judge Baker Children's Center recognized by hosting a symposium offering expert perspectives on “Treating Multi-Problem Youth.”  More than 400 people attended.

Two brand new programs were introduced in the latter half of this decade.  Judge Baker returned to its roots by opening up the Center for Effective Child Therapy (CECT), an evidence-based clinic for children aged 3-17 struggling with anxiety, depression, traumatic stress, and disruptive behavior; and introduced the Summer Treatment Program, an evidence based program for children with ADHD and other disruptive behavior disorders.


Dr. John R. Weisz stepped down as President and CEO of Judge Baker Children's Center in September of 2012. Chief Operating Officer Stephen Schaffer was appointed the Interim President, and served in that role until Robert P. Franks, Ph.D. began his tenure as President and CEO in August, 2014.

Judge Baker's Summer Treatment Program expanded to become a year round program offering monthly booster sessions for parents of children who attended the program over the summer.

In late 2013, Judge Baker introduced the NEXT STEP: College Success & Independent Living program. This program is designed for students, grades 9-12, with Asperger’s Syndrome, NLD, or related learning differences, who are serious about attending college after high school. Its focus is to afford students a chance to hone executive functioning, problem solving, and self-advocacy skills that are necessary for living on a college campus.