EMQ FamiliesFirst is one of the largest, most comprehensive mental health treatment programs in the country. The agency takes a state-of-the-art approach to children and youth with complex behavioral health challenges: we combine research-based services (including evidence-based therapies and psychiatric services) with a family-centered effort to identify and address the complex needs of the family. Our results for youth are on average 10 percentage points higher when compared to state or national averages on metrics such as living at home, staying in school and out of trouble.
Black Friday discounts…Cyber Monday bargains…what comes next? Giving Tuesday!
This nationwide movement began last year and is gathering a lot of interest this year. We’re hoping that interest turns into impact as supporters like you kick off the giving season by donating to favorite charities.
Giving Tuesday is a great balance to the last few days of shopping frenzy. And it’s a time to show the value you place on giving back to your community.
Support Giving Tuesday by making a donation and by sharing the message. You can find more on our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.
It has been said that volunteers don’t just do the work, they make it work. Collectively, they contribute hundreds of hours toward their community’s health through their compassionate work with organizations like ours. Volunteers support our programs and fundraising efforts in countless and priceless ways.
For example, we’ve estimated that in this past fiscal year ending on June 30, 2013, EMQ FamiliesFirst had approximately 825 volunteers who served over 60,500 hours!
Parents from Larchmont Charter School and Wagon Wheel School held successful Thanksgiving basket food drives to benefit hundreds of Los Angeles children and their families.
Most of the hours were the result of contributions by those who run three stores in Santa Clara County: The Butter Paddle Gift and Gourmet store, the Happy Dragon Thrift Shop, and, celebrating its 20th year, the Unicorn Thrift Shop. Last year’s proceeds from these shops totaled an impressive $750,000 and allowed us to direct resources to children and families in need.
Across the state, many more volunteers support our staff and families in invaluable ways, such as creating a vegetable garden, hosting a holiday party, planning a major fundraising event or gala, painting residential cottages, tutoring after school, or teaching life skills to older teens.
To say we couldn’t do it without you is an understatement. On behalf of myself, the staff, and, most importantly, the children and their families we serve, we thank you— our volunteers—for your unwavering support and commitment year-round and for your extra effort during the holiday season. You truly “walk the talk” and do whatever it takes to help children and families lead more healthy and productive lives.
To serve a growing and unmet need in the Inland Empire Region, EMQ FamiliesFirst launched the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) program, accessible to families through private pay and insurance, regional center referrals and local schools. The program opened last week to serve our San Bernardino campus and the community, as well as on-call treatment in Riverside County.
In 2012, more than 50,000 children ages 3-17 had been diagnosed with ASD in California. In the same year, California passed the Autism Insurance Reform Law requiring that California insurers and health plans cover individuals with autism. Without insurance coverage for this diagnosis, California families had been forced to pay out of pocket or rely on tax-funded programs for treatment. In 2014, the Affordable Care Act, which also mandates coverage for autism, will ensure that families have access to affordable insurance options.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the United States. It affects 1 in every 88 children – in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
“California currently has the highest number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, with nearly 30% of those diagnosed placed on a lengthy waitlist for treatment,” said Brian Thomson, executive director, Inland Empire Region. “Following the new California legislation, we are excited to introduce our program and specialized team to San Bernardino and Riverside counties to aid children and families who are in need of immediate treatment.”
EMQ FamiliesFirst believes that early diagnosis and intervention during the first years of a child’s life can significantly impact long-term prognosis, particularly in the areas of language and social behavior. The agency uses Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), specifically identified in the California legislation, to treat children and adolescents with ASD.
EMQ FamiliesFirst works closely with families, primary and specialty care physicians, pediatricians, schools and community agencies to provide and coordinate a continuum of high quality services.
Early Intervention Helps with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Billy was fortunate. His diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) came when he was still a young toddler. His parents had noticed that, unlike other children, he was withdrawn, intensely focused on certain things and his speech was delayed.
Research has shown that early identification and intervention can result in dramatically better outcomes for children with ASD. The sooner the intervention, the sooner symptoms of ASD can be treated and great progress can be made.
“Billy spoke in a very flat tone, he didn’t make eye contact, didn’t show emotion. Interaction with other kids was difficult, and he could not tolerate hugs,” said Connie, Billy’s mom.
The diagnosis answered many of their questions and gave Billy’s family a path for finding help as soon as possible. He was referred to another agency through the Regional Center and received some intensive early-intervention therapy just before he turned two years old.
When Billy aged-out of the early intervention program he was referred to the Autism Spectrum Disorder services provided by EMQ FamiliesFirst.
Using an evidence-based treatment, Pivotal Response Training (PRT), EMQ FamiliesFirst addressed behaviors common in children with ASD, including motivation and responding to multiple clues. Based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), PRT has demonstrated positive changes in key behaviors that affect language, play, and social interaction. In addition to building crucial skills, ABA can also help reduce both everyday social problems and serious behavior disorders.
When Billy first met with his behaviorist, Anna, there had been a big change at home – he had a new baby sister – and for a child with ASD, changes to the normal routine can be very upsetting. “He was quiet, not engaging in new things, unhappy and within himself,” said Anna. “He was very focused on his toy trains and easily frustrated when he was asked to do new things.”
“EMQ FamiliesFirst formed a wonderful, caring team that worked with him at home, at his pre-school, and out in public,” said Connie. “They immersed him in typical situations with kids his age.”
Anna quickly learned that reading books and playing with his trains were two of Billy’s favorite things to do. She used this information to make teaching skills more fun for him.
Billy needed a lot of help to manage his anxieties – the loud noises of other kids, among other things. Anna taught him coping skills that he could understand at his age. “We would pretend that he had swallowed a balloon and that he could see it expanding in his stomach. He practiced taking deep breaths to blow up the balloon, and that helped him to calm down when he was feeling anxious,” said Anna.
Transitioning into new situations was a major problem, but once he learned the skills to manage his anxieties, and with repeated exposure, he had time to get comfortable in new situations and continued to make great progress.
“The first therapy Billy received had a very rigid structure. Goals would only be changed on a set schedule – if he mastered something ahead of schedule, he was not encouraged to master the next step until the scheduled time. But, the EMQ FamiliesFirst program allowed the goal to change as soon as Billy mastered something,” continued Connie. “He made much quicker progress that way.”
None of the parents in Billy’s social circle knew of his diagnosis, but all who observed him over the weeks when Anna was working with him noticed his improvements. He was more social and looked happier. He laughs more now, and most importantly, he interacts with other children.
“I really don’t have the words to powerfully describe the difference that EMQ FamiliesFirst made in Billy’s life and our life,” Connie said. “His sentences are becoming conversations, he’s engaging with other kids, and he shows real empathy for other people. They helped my child become more ‘natural,’ and he’s funny now.
“Before, he could not tolerate hugs. Now he’s very affectionate. He even comes and asks for ‘love,’ and we finally get special cuddle time.”
Ever wonder what happens to all those donations collected at all those Sleep Train stores? When you hear those little voices on the radio and the tag line “Not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone can help a foster child,” do you wonder where all that support and effort really ends up?
Here’s a view of some of the school supplies being shipped over to our Sacramento office to be given directly to children and teens in our programs who otherwise would not have a backpack or basic supplies to start the school year.
What an amazing effort reaching kids in communities throughout California from generous people right in their area who continue to show up and give a dollar, donate a backpack or a pair of shoes. What a fantastic gift Sleep Train continues to give foster kids and other vulnerable children by promoting and organizing a way for people to help out.
Thanks to all who supported the school drive and thanks to Sleep Train!
Pictured: backpacks, school supplies, our Youth Partner, some of the great staff at Sleep Train loading up the truck, and Kayla, with a load of supplies.
In the Midst of the Healing Process, School Supplies Give an Extra Boost
Once, the world was a scary place for me. I was afraid that the people who had abused me when I was little were coming to get me and would try to hurt me again. I hardly wanted to leave the house even to go to school. Just going outside made me panic, and all of this made me so worried I could hardly sleep at night. I became depressed, and started cutting myself.
My grades were terrible because I missed so many classes, and when I did show up, I was embarrassed and ashamed to be around the other kids. I thought they could see right through me to all that was wrong with me. Finally, my parents had to take me to the hospital.
When I left, I got help from EMQ FamiliesFirst.They were right there when I needed them, at school and at home, keeping me to a new healthier routine. The team helped me by getting me a tutor and having me attend regular therapy with my parents. I slowly started to feel better about things.
EMQ FamiliesFirst provided clothing, school supplies, and a new backpack that made me feel excited and ready for the school year. They helped me to discover the things I was good at, like drawing and painting, and when I had a really good week, they got me new art supplies and materials.
Things aren’t perfect, but I realize now the future doesn’t have to be as dark as the past. I’ve made some new friends already, and I’m even thinking about what I want to do when I graduate from high school. Believe it or not, I’ve started looking at colleges for an arts degree.
Without my family and the team from EMQ FamiliesFirst, I never would have been able to face down all my fears. I know I have a long way to go to get over my past, but I feel like I have the tools and support I need to face whatever comes my way. Thank you for helping kids like me.
So many details that many families take for granted – like getting basic school supplies – become further blocks to the healing process for a family in poverty and overcoming abuse or trauma. It’s easy to help kids like Aimee. Read more to find out how.
Summertime can be a time of enormous personal growth for children: developing meaningful friendships, learning a new skill or gaining self-confidence. All are vital to children’s healthy development, especially as they struggle to overcome abuse, neglect or trauma.
Whether it’s sending a child to equine therapy or computer camp; paying for supplies and instruction in our art, music or dance programs; or helping offset the cost of a trip to see family, your support helps enrich the lives of children and keeps them in a safe, nurturing environment.
Laura Champion (right), Bay Area Region executive director, leads discussion in Moscow.
“There was both openness and generosity of spirit from our Moscow partners,” said Laura Champion, Bay Area Region executive director, on her recent return trip to Russia. Through a USAID reciprocal learning grant, EMQ FamiliesFirst is working in partnership with the Russian nonprofit social services agency Bolshaya Peremena (Big Change).
Laura said that, together, the agencies developed “highly successful” trainings in support of foster youth in both countries. The first training last fall hosted twelve Moscow delegates at EMQ FamiliesFirst in Campbell, California. Our staff went to Moscow in the spring.
“Strong connections were made between social workers and administrators in both countries over the past twelve months, and we look forward to continuing to share best practices,” Laura said. “It’s invaluable to have a partner that can assist us with cultural competence as we serve an increasing number of Russian families in California. In turn, our expertise can assist Russia in its quest to move from orphanage care to foster care and earlier prevention services.”
Carrie Wisen, behavior specialist, shows the sensory treatment room’s special features.
As you enter the sensory treatment room at Hollygrove, our Los Angeles division, you instantly realize why the children who receive services here look forward to their appointments. A sizeable pit filled with multi-colored balls, big swings and other therapeutic toys fill the room with the promise of fun and enjoyment.
Yet the children are actually participating in an innovative sensory integration therapy that is based on their individual sensory needs and development. Parents find that the therapy and treatment room becomes an educational and rewarding experience.
For 10-year-old Sandy and her mother, mornings were agonizing as Sandy burst into tantrums demanding her mother feed and dress her. Carrie Wisen, Hollygrove behavior specialist, found Sandy to be a highly tactile child who required help in regulating her senses and emotions. Besides tactile activities in the sensory room, Sandy found a calming effect from having scheduled morning times to play with her dog. Her tantrums greatly decreased.
Parents who bring children to the program also become more attuned to their own sensory needs. Carrie said that parents are repeatedly drawn to the large cuddle swing while they observe their children’s sessions. The heavy-duty spandex swing provides deep touch pressure similar to a soothing hug. One mom was relaxing in the swing and was surprised when her young son climbed into her lap and allowed her to hold him. He quietly said, “I love you, Mommy.”
With a background in early childhood development and a passion for sensory integration, Carrie is not surprised at the positive impact that the treatment room has had. She looks forward to growing the program to serve the increasing number of Hollygrove families.