Debora Matthews, President and CEO of The Children’s Center

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rom her background in finance, The Children's Center president and CEO Debora Matthews found a passion for philanthropy.

"After falling in love with the nonprofits I was auditing, I thought, 'Gee, maybe I should work with one of those guys,'" she explains.

After getting involved with The Children's Center, first as a volunteer and then a board member, Matthews was asked to be CEO of the organization. It was a momentous occasion, she says, because her background was in numbers, not nonprofits.

"There had never been a Children's Center CEO that wasn't a social worker, psychologist or that type of individual," says Matthews. But it wasn't long before she realized caring for people had been a part of her career path all along.


"I've always been a person who craves helping people," she says. "My love of kids and helping them out of their struggle was always present even in the financial arena."

More than a CEO, Matthews says she has learned that children need a champion.

"I believe that every child deserves a champion. And we think of ourselves in that capacity," she explains. "The children we see are oftentimes trapped in a life of abuse, neglect, poverty. They have challenges, and families particularly feel that they don't know what the solution is. The challenge seems impossible. So it's our job at The Children's Center to be that champion, to help them rebuild the hope. Whatever the pain is, we provide that ability for them to understand that there is hope."

Child services at The Children's Center cover three key areas: behavioral health, child welfare and learning development-all with a focus on family. 

"It used to be 20 years ago the parents wanted to drop kids off and say, 'OK, get them together. Then, I will come back.' But we insist that parents are a part of the solution," she says. "It's about empowering families for us; helping parents be better parents. We don't want the child to stay with us for 10 years. We want to equip that family to be able to manage what is going on from either a behavioral or a developmental standpoint. So they can continue to carry the torch beyond the point that they need The Children's Center."

It might sound cliché, but Matthews can't say it enough: The children are our future.

"What I know about children is that they're resilient, they're courageous, they're brave because they survive. And then once we're able to come into their lives and give some direction to them, they can see a brighter tomorrow," says Matthews. "We want to make sure that childhood is something important and special to them. And that they believe that adulthood is possible. Many of our kids can't even see past today because they're hungry, they're challenged.

"So at The Children's Center, we really believe in helping children to see that there is a future. And that is why we love to say when you heal children, you heal Detroit. That is the way it is going to turn Detroit around. The children are the future, and they are going to take us there."

Donate or volunteer

Want to give a little more this year? The Children's Center's annual Holiday Shop on Dec. 7-10 invites you to donate or volunteer.

"The idea is we want families to feel that they are not just getting a handout," says Debora Matthews, CEO and president of The Children's Center. "We ask for donations and want unwrapped gifts. And we set up areas within our organization where all of these gifts are put out like you are in a department store."

For more information about how you can donate to The Children's Center's Holiday Shop, call 313-831-5535 or visit

Photos by Sydney Kispert-Bostick

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