Chambliss Center for Children (formerly Children's Home/Chambliss Shelter) began in 1872 as an orphanage, started by a group of women from the five downtown churches in Chattanooga. It was incorporated in 1878 as the Women’s Christian Association and was later changed to be called the Vine Street Orphan’s Home. After out-growing their Vine Street building, the program was moved to a new building on Gillespie Road in 1939 where it still resides today. As the foster care system was implemented in the 1960’s, the number of children residing in the orphanage began to decline. It was then that the Board of Directors sought a new way to serve the children of the community. Thus began our Extended Child Care program that operates to date, caring for children from 6 weeks old up to 12 years old. This early childhood education program is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and serves parents at any income level by setting their fee based on income. Approximately 78% of the children in this program come from single-parent homes and about 80% are living at or below the poverty level. This qualifies most of our 300+ children as “at-risk”, therefore we have a strong focus on education and school readiness in order to help these children succeed in school and later in life. There are developmentally appropriate activities for children each day, three meals and a snack served, and transportation provided to designated neighborhood schools. The program is a Three Star Program – the highest awarded by the state for early childhood and care programs.
During the summer months, the number of children enrolled in our program jumps as parents seek for childcare while they are at work. The summer program keeps children busy with a large swimming pool, tennis lessons on our tennis court (teacher sponsored by the Chattanooga Tennis Foundation), a baseball field, soccer field, large new playground, and games inside our gym for those hottest hours of the day. Field trips destinations include Lake Winnepesaukah and a fishing trip to a pond on Lookout Mountain. Our goal is to provide quality care to these children in a safe environment during the 10 weeks of summer.
In addition to the Extended Child Care Program, we also operate a Residential Program at the same Gillespie Road location. Originally run by Hamilton County, the Chambliss Shelter moved under our control in 1983 and now occupies a building originally built as the infirmary for the orphanage. Assuming responsibility for this program brought us back to our original beginnings as an orphanage and aligned with our mission to serve at-risk children in any way possible. This residential program cares for children that are 6-18 years old who have been removed from their homes because of abuse, abandonment, or neglect and are now in the custody of the State of Tennessee. In addition, the Residential Program cares for children who have been adjudicated delinquent from the juvenile court system. The children live either in the Shelter itself or in one of our foster homes throughout the city and region. The goal of this program is to not only provide for the needs of the children in care, but seek permanence for each child, whether with their biological families, through our foster family placements, or with an adoptive family.
Today, Chambliss Center for Children cares for almost 700 children daily, through its two on-site programs and its network of childcare centers throughout the city. To get more information about the organization or to make a donation, please visit the website at www.chamblisscenter.org. Chambliss Center for Children is a local, private, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and gifts may be tax-deductible.
Chambliss Center for Children was featured in a recent HBO Documentary called "Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert", produced by Maria Shriver. The film highlighted the struggle of a local mother who utilizes the Extended Childcare Program. The documentary was part of Maria Shriver's recent project meant to highlight the 42 million women in America who are living in or on the brink of poverty. For more information go to HBO's website.
You can follow the agency on Twitter @caring4children or like on Facebook at www.facebook.com/chamblisscenter.
315 Gillespie Road, Chattanooga, TN, 37411