The Center for Family Development (TCFD) was established to support and nurture children, empowering them to thrive. A non-profit organization headquartered in Shelbyville, TN, we were created to establish an array of services to prevent child abuse and neglect as well as to help train parents who have already experienced struggles within their families.

Healthy Families and AmeriCorps

The Center was born as Healthy Families in November 1995 at Bedford County Medical Center. At that time we served Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall and Moore Counties. Lynne Farrar, Director of Community Relations for the hospital, and Denise Hobbs, who was a Supervisor with the Department of Children’s Services, wrote the original Healthy Families grant. Denise became the Program Director of Healthy Families.

In June of 1996, the Bedford County Medical Center realized they had no room for Healthy Families’ growth. Wanting to give it the freedom to thrive, the decision was made, by the hospital and the Child Development Center, for Healthy Families to move into its own office. The Child Development Center believed in the mission of Healthy Families and was in a position to administer the program as an independent agency under its umbrella.

The Tennessee Commission on National and Community Service awarded us an AmeriCorps grant in October 1997. With the grant, we would recruit AmeriCorps Members to serve the community. Our AmeriCorps Members became our Children First Program, teaching a violence prevention curriculum, Second Step, to daycare-, pre-school- and school-age children. Second Step’s lessons covered three areas—empathy, impulse control and anger management—and Children First taught it to over 1,000 children.

The decision was made in 1999, by Denise Hobbs, Executive Director, and Lynne Farrar, Associate Director, to discontinue AmeriCorps. The requirement of developing AmeriCorps Members drained our time and financial resources. With the money we had to raise for AmeriCorps, we realized we could hire long-term professional staff to sustain the services we offered and it would allow us to focus on our main priority: serving children and families.

During 1998, we were awarded the Governor’s Prevention Initiative Grant (later named the Community Prevention Initiative). The grant was for Coffee County and it allowed us to serve the county more comprehensively with both the Healthy Families and Children First programs. Additionally, we received the Child Abuse Prevention Grant which allowed us to add a Family Support Worker for Healthy Families.  

The Center for Family Development

In the span of a year, our programs multiplied from one to four, our revenue doubled and our staff tripled. As a consequence of this progress, we outgrew the Child Development Center. A mutual agreement was made by our Advisory Board and the Governing Board of the Child Development Center for us to separate. The Center for Family Development received its charter and 501(c)3 and we began the separation process. We officially became the Center for Family Development in January 1999.

We opened a satellite office in June 2000 at the Henry Center in Tullahoma. The Henry Center was a ministry building of the First United Methodist Church which had available space for non-profit organizations. With the added space, we offered parenting classes on-site as well as activities and supervised therapeutic visitations for our children and families. Our office at the Henry Center closed in 2004 because it was deemed unnecessary to provide comprehensive services in Coffee County.

For a time, we explored plans for a Child Advocacy Center in the Henry Center. We received a Training Grant for staff and Dr. Cliff Seyler, a pediatrician, along with his nurse. The grant also provided training to prepare the Child Protective Investigative Team for implementation of a Child Advocacy Center. In the end, the community components of law enforcement, DCS and service providers did not make the commitment necessary to fulfill the mission of a Child Advocacy Center.

CASA, Parenting Classes and Adoption Services

Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, began in July 200 with a start-up grant from the National CASA Association. CASA trains volunteers to advocate in Juvenile Court for children who have been abused or neglected. CASA ensures the abuse and neglect children suffered at home does not continue at the hands of the system. CASA received the Certificate of Compliance with National CASA Standards for Member Programs in December 2004 by demonstrating quality program management utilizing the Standards Self-Assessment Instrument. Our program is a Member in Good Standing with both the National CASA Association and the Tennessee CASA Association. In June 2010, a mutual agreement was made between CASA and the Center for Family Development to separate. It was believed, strategically, in the best interest of both parties for CASA to be an independent organization within the Center.

As the Center for Family Development grew, we taught parenting classes that used the foundation of the Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee curriculum. The curriculum taught appropriate disciplines, age appropriate development expectations and anger management. Trans Parenting was a course that helped divorcing parents realize the effects divorce had on their children and instructed them on how to co-parent. Most parenting classes were discontinued so the Center could provide one-on-one, customized classes to parents. The Center contracted with the Department of Children’s Services to provide in-home, intensive, case management, but DCS discontinued their contractual services in 2009.

The Center for Family Development began Adoption Services in 2003. As a licensed Child Placement Agency we were able to recruit and train foster parents, provide support to a birth parent seeking to surrender her child for adoption and conduct home studies and qualify potential adoptive parents. During our time as Child Placement Agency, we completed the adoptions of a dozen children and conducted numerous adoptive home studies.

Our administrative contract with Heaven Sent Children (HSC) began in 2010. In fiscal year 2011/2012, we started the acquisition of HSC as our adoption program. Heaven Sent Children had an extensive history of international adoptions and was a good marriage for our work with domestic adoptions and birth mother work. Our adoption program suffered in 2021 and 2022 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. With the loss of revenue, we were forced to suspend the program.

Sphere and Relative Caregiver

The Community Prevention Initiative funding had been cut by 25% in 2003, which stopped the Children First service. In 2004, with the funding to be cut by another 25%, the Community Prevention Initiative was discontinued. This forced a stop to the free Parenting Classes in Coffee County and closed the Tullahoma office. Healthy Families continued to serve Coffee County.

The Center for Family Development Sphere program began in July 2006. Sphere placed children in resource homes and coordinated all services for that child. The services included, but were not limited to, medical care, dental care, psychological evaluations and therapy. The foster homes were trained with a twenty-seven hour curriculum entitled, “Parents As Tender Healers,” or P.A.T.H.

In 2009, the State of Tennessee began an initiative to place children that entered into state custody in the homes of relatives. This decision drastically decreased the number of children placed in foster homes. With Sphere, our Center had trained over fifteen resource parents, officially opened six foster homes and served over two dozen children. With state’s decision for relative caregivers, the need for a foster care program was not in the best interest of the Center, from a strategic point of view. The Board of Directors and Senior Management agreed the Sphere program would be closed.

The Relative Caregiver Program of the Center for Family Development began in October of 2006. The Relative Caregiver Program (RCP) is available to all relatives who provide care for a child who is not their biological son or daughter. The program continues to provide and coordinate services for children and relative caregivers. Family Advocates provide support, one time emergency funds and educational workshops to empower the caregiver. The Relative Caregiver Program also coordinates group activities for the children and families. RCP accepts referrals from the Court, the Department of Children’s Services, agencies and individuals.

One Year Projects and Distinction

Funded through the Department of Children’s Services (DCS), the Permanency Planning Project was a one-year pilot project that began in 2007. DCS selected 12-15 children who had been in foster care for an extended period with no identified lifetime connection. The Center for Family Development completed thorough searches into their backgrounds and provided direction for individualized recruitment for the child. DCS discontinued the program in January 2008.

Comenzando Bien was another one-year program within the scope of services offered by the Center. The program was funded with the award of the March of Dimes grant in January 2007. Comenzando Bien was a pre-conception and prenatal education and support service for Hispanic mothers. The program began in the first trimester and continued throughout the baby’s birth. Comenzando Bien used a culturally appropriate curriculum to prevent birth defects, prematurity, low birth weight and infant mortality.

By 2008, Healthy Families was in its 14th year and had served more than 100 families with intensive in-home visitations. In July, the Center encompassed the Healthy Start program from Montgomery and Stewart Countes. It was in this year that Healthy Families achieved national credentialing from Prevent Child Abuse America. The credential symbolized the Healthy Families’ adherence to the Twelve Critical Elements of National Best Practice of Home Visitation. Our program was one of only two in Tennessee to achieve the distinction.

Our Healthy Families Family Support Workers continue to help families understand the needs and developmental milestones of their children, and to set goals for home management to build stronger bonding relationships with their children. When families understand their children and are able to manage their lives, children have a the best opportunity to thrive.

Creating Promise, a mentoring program for the children of prisoners, started in October 2009 thanks to a federal grant. The program recruited and trained mentors to provide a positive role model to children whose lives had been touched by parental incarceration. Creating Promise closed in 2010 due to a federal budget cut.

Healthier Beginnings and Connecting Generations

In 2011/2012, the CASA program director and the TCFD Executive Director, Denise Hobbs, began discussions to separate CASA from TCFD to form its own entity with the sole focus of advocating for children in the court system. This decision was very difficult for Denise as she had begun the CASA program, but saw the value in it being a separate entity.

Our central office in Shelbyville moved three times from 2012-2022. During that time, the Tennessee Department of Health began expansions of the state’s Healthy Families Programs. Thanks to the expansion, we received additional funding for a program in Clarkesville, called Healthier Beginnings, to serve military families. In 2021, the Department of Health expanded all of its evidenced-based home visitation programs into all of the 95 counties of Tennessee. The Center for Family Development worked in an additional seven counties; six of these counties were in the Mid-Cumberland region and one was in the South Central Region.

In 2022 we were approved for a grant called Connecting Generations with a contract signed to begin January 2023. Our reapplication for the Relative Caregiver Program was awarded again for 2023.

The Center for Family Development currently operates out of six offices: two in Shelbyville, and one each in Clarksville, Dover, White House and Columbia, Tennessee. Combined, we serve 22 counties in Middle Tennessee as of 2024.

©2021 The Center for Family Development | All Rights Reserved