Tucked into the St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in South Los Angeles is a small office doing a big job. The newly-renamed Partners for Children South L.A. (formerly the South Los Angeles Child Welfare Initiative, or SLACWI) serves a unique purpose in the web of social service agencies working in the area, helping residents find the care they need.
Through an Early Childhood System of Care, Partners for Children South L.A. connects families with healthcare, legal, education, housing and other resources in their holistic approach to care. “It really is a true collaboration with a very diverse group of service providers, all with the common goal of working with families with very young children,” said Director Liza Bray. “We all want to improve developmental outcomes for these children and their families, and reduce their involvement with the child welfare system.”
To that end, Partners for Children South L.A. not only links families to services, but also coordinates across agencies and follows up with families to make sure they’re getting the care they need. A warm handoff is a key part of their efforts, essential to each family feeling they’ve been heard and gaining trust in the system.
But Partners for Children South L.A. recognizes that there are many different types of families, all with unique needs. Families with relatives, often grandmothers, caring for young children face particular challenges. “We want to provide ongoing training and development to caregivers who are now stepping back into parenting roles,” Bray said. “A lot has changed since they’ve been parents to young children, and we want them to feel equipped to advocate for their family.”
In 2013, they began a series of support groups to serve these relative caregivers as well as another high-risk population, pregnant and parenting teens. Both groups often lack peers who can relate to their situation, increasing feelings of isolation. Today, six support groups at three locations bring together 120 relative caregivers each week. “We want them to really connect with a new peer group that understands what they’re going through and learn from one another,” Bray said.
These groups also emphasize self-care and well-being, critical for grandparents dealing with health issues of their own and the added financial pressures of raising a child. Activities like a recent trip to the Long Beach Aquarium have given these caregivers a chance to relax and enjoy new experiences, while childcare is provided by the organization.
By equipping these relative caregivers with the tools they need to serve their families best, Partners for Children South L.A. is laying the foundation for close intergenerational relationships. At a recent event, a longtime support group member named Annie spoke about raising her granddaughter and the challenges she had faced with a withdrawn young girl struggling in school. Next her granddaughter Aviana, now a poised young woman with a 4.0 GPA and serving as class vice president, stepped to the microphone, beaming with pride not for her own accomplishments but her grandmother’s. It was the first time Annie had done any kind of public speaking, and had overcome her fear at Aviana’s urging.
Looking forward, Partners for Children South L.A. plans to work with the Department of Children and Family Services to make access to services more efficient, for the benefit of the families and the department itself. Said Bray, “we want to keep these kids out of the system, but if they’re in it, we want to make sure they get the support that they need.”Back to Eisner Journal Directory