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Waco Center for Youth

Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl General

The Waco Center for Youth, established in September 1979, was the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation's first residential psychiatric treatment facility for emotionally disturbed children and adolescents. Its ninety-four-acre campus in northwest Waco was previously the site of the Waco State Home. The Waco Center for Youth was designed to help children with backgrounds of severe family conflicts, behavior problems, genetic disorders, or organic syndromes. It used a cottage system for a residential environment and developed individualized treatment plans for each child. The center emphasized positive relationships between children and staff members, as well as the participation of the parents or guardians in the treatment process. In addition to individual, group, and family therapy, the center offered recreational programs, occupational therapy, creative arts, manual arts, daily living skills, chaplaincy, and dietary services. The center was fully accredited by the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Hospitals. It accepted children between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, provided that they were Texas residents who had been diagnosed as emotionally disturbed and had been referred through the Department of Human Services, Mental Health-Mental Retardation Community Centers, or the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. In 1991 the center had a capacity of ninety-six. In 1994 the center had seventy-two residents; its director was Stephen Anfinson.


  • Health and Medicine
  • State Hospitals

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, “Waco Center for Youth,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 24, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.