It Takes a Village
Empowering families to give kids the childhood they deserve is all in a day’s work for the Richstone Family Center.
- Written byLaura L. Watts
- Photographed byShane O’Donnell
In a perfect world, every child would have an endless supply of love and support from family members, as well as a safe and comfortable home, plenty of friends to play with, quality education and healthy food to eat. Unfortunately, a hidden epidemic is robbing many young people of the childhood they serve: child abuse and neglect.
Sometimes it happens because of poverty or limited resources, but it’s a fact that child abuse occurs across cultural lines and in families of all education and income levels. Stressors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, can increase the likelihood of abuse taking place. Sadly, children who experience child abuse and neglect are much more likely to commit crimes, use drugs and later abuse their own children.
The Richstone Family Center, founded in 1974, exists to radically change these statistics in the South Bay and South L.A. areas. Dedicated to preventing violence in homes, schools and communities, and strengthening and educating families, this nonprofit organization has grown from a small neighborhood service for 70 families to a comprehensive agency that served 3,286 children and families in 2020. Richstone’s staff provides bilingual, trauma-focused treatment, wellness and education programs for our community.
“Due to shutdowns this past year, we are currently serving more than 500 clients through remote programs including virtual home visitations, a Kids Club afterschool and expanded day program, and telehealth individual and family counseling,” says Roger Van Remmen, Richstone’s president/CEO.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, their waiting list for therapy has doubled due to the sharp increase of individuals and families experiencing loss, stress and fear. Therapists work with clients in virtual support groups to develop healthy coping strategies and build resilience through these challenging times.
Richstone aims to engage parents and their children to help them realize their full potential and to build healthy, productive lives. By addressing basic physical and emotional needs, Richstone gives kids the ability to be successful in their daily lives. The organization assists families in laying strong foundations from which children can thrive socially, emotionally and academically.
“Today’s children are tomorrow’s future.”
Richstone’s programs are extremely effective in keeping children safe and thriving. These programs prevent violence and abuse through early intervention and assist parents in strengthening their knowledge, emotional control and parenting skills.
For example, Richstone’s Parents as Teachers team offers evidence-based early childhood education programming to encourage child wellness, parent empowerment and school readiness for parents and children up to 5 years old. In Richstone’s Kids Club, program staff and community volunteers mentor students through homework assistance and enrichment activities for grades 1-8. For over 40 years, this year-round after-school program has continued to be an important safety net for local at-risk youth through the promotion of educational achievement and positive character development.
“We believe that all children deserve safe, stable, healthy homes and communities that promote their well-being,” Roger says. “Effective child abuse prevention strategies succeed because of partnerships created to support raising children in a nurturing environment.”
The Richstone Family Center works with schools, community partners and government agencies to address and end the cycle of violence within families. With help from community partners, Richstone distributed 2,600 bags of food to clients this past year. Volunteers dedicate time for one-on-one mentoring to support students’ virtual learning. During a challenging time for everyone, the organization has been grateful for the outpouring of love and compassion their neighbors have offered.
Violence, food insecurity and other family and community stressors create emotional and developmental challenges that negatively impact a child’s ability to learn and thrive. With April designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, this is the perfect time for individuals and organizations to reach out and support the work being done by the Richstone Family Center.
“Today’s children are tomorrow’s future,” shares Roger, “and Richstone hopes to support their growth by giving them a chance to lead happy lives and become impactful contributors to our community.”