our history

Our foundation is grounded in compassion and has been shaped by the challenges that threaten the emotional wellness of our community. For over 80 years, West Michigan has looked to Arbor Circle and its predecessors to address issues surrounding trauma, mental health, addiction, poverty, and stigmas. As a culmination of nine agencies who have met the call, we value our rich history and the impact we continue to have today. We remain rooted in our mission to transform lives—with every child, every individual, and every family who comes our way.

Our Story


the grand rapids child guidance clinic is founded

Established by The Grand Rapids Committee for Mental Hygiene, this clinic is created to recognize that “childhood is the time to prevent adult maladjustment.”

In 1950, The Grand Rapids Child Guidance Clinic is recognized as one of the first 10 child guidance clinics in the state of Michigan.


Alcohol outpatient services (AOS) is established

The Grand Rapids Health Department makes history by developing the first complete treatment center for alcoholics in Michigan.

Later, in November 1975, AOS is recognized as the first publicly funded, independent, private, non-profit corporation in Kent County.


the advisory center for teens (ACT) is established

Created by the Wyoming Jaycees, this is the first program with counseling services dedicated to adolescents and young adults. With its humble beginnings in the basement of Roger’s Plaza, the program ran with a total operating budget of $616.00.

In 1977, ACT moves directly across from The Grand Rapids Child Guidance Clinic—setting up the merger that would eventually lead to the establishment of Arbor Circle.


the bridge for runaways is created

As the community’s first grassroots home for runaways, The Bridge offers shelter for at-risk young people.

The Bridge will merge with ACT in 1981. And by 1982, the program will build our first and only dedicated shelter facility of its kind, which still exists today.


the mercy respite center is established

Developed by parents who require respite care for their developmentally disabled children, this program provides care on weekends and during summers. From 1980 to 1985, The Mercy Respite Center is located at Mount Mercy Academy and later at Pine Rest Christian Hospital.

The Mercy Respite Center’s Board of Directors open doors to its permanent home on the property of E. Fulton in 1985, which is gifted by Bishop Brietenbeck of the Diocese of Grand Rapids.


family impact begins

Family Impact is developed as a joint venture between Bethany Christian Services and Pine Rest Christian Hospital. The result is Kent County’s first community-based family treatment service to reduce the number of children removed from their home due to mental health issues.


arbor circle is established

Formed through the merger of four organizations (The Advisory Center for Teens, The Grand Rapids Child Guidance Clinic, Family impact Care, Inc. and Mercy Respite Center), Arbor Circle is officially established. Each agency director shares their view of the future, the surrounding environment, and impact of change on their respective agencies. AOS officially joins this merger in 1997.

Gerald DeRuiter, the former President of Grand Rapids Child Guidance Clinic, becomes Arbor Circle’s first president. Additionally, Mary Alice Williams, the former President of the Advisory Center for Teens, becomes Arbor Circle first vice president.


joint commission accreditation

Arbor Circle receives Joint Commission Accreditation, one of the highest levels of quality certifications awarded in the health care industry.


pathways, mI is formed

Pathways, MI is formed as the result of a merger between the Children’s Resource Network and Child and Family Services of Western Michigan, both longstanding providers of services in the community. The merger helps align foster care, adoption, prevention and advocacy services.


integration of outpatient counseling center (OCC)

Arbor Circle’s Outpatient Counseling Center (OCC) is built to combine all outpatient programs on the expanded Ball campus.

This expansion allows Arbor Circle to serve 4,000 children, youth, families and adults with outpatient services each year, and establishes us as one of the largest, most comprehensive outpatient programs in West Michigan today.


pathways, mi merges with arbor circle

Pathways, MI merges with Arbor Circle, expanding services to over 50 programs, across 12 counties in West Michigan. Arbor Circle now serves thousands of individuals and families annually.

Watch as Arbor Circle’s co-founders reflect on the organization’s ongoing dedication to those in the community.


Arbor Circle Celebrates 25 years

As Arbor Circle celebrates its 25th anniversary, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the incredible impact this organization has had over the past 25 years. Since its inception in 1996, Arbor Circle has been dedicated to providing critical mental health and substance abuse services to individuals and families in West Michigan. Through its innovative programs and services, Arbor Circle has touched the lives of countless people and helped to create stronger, more connected communities. The organization has grown and evolved over the years, but its commitment to its mission has remained steadfast.