EMQ FamiliesFirst Help and Hope for Kids in Crisis

How Does Your Garden Grow?

It’s harvest season, and we thought you would enjoy seeing the fruits (and vegetables) of the Giving Garden at Hollygrove. This project began last year as a part of the Endless Summer after school therapeutic program. Children planted the garden with the help of “Model Gardener” and iHeart radio host, Kelly Emberg. 

Such positive, creative experiences help heal the trauma children have faced, filling them with positive memories and some of the joys of childhood. 

Thanks to Kelly Emberg, garden designer, and Stewart Grace, project manager, for their dedication and support. Thanks also go to Patty Pagaling and Basia Kenton of Transition to Organics for donations of gardening supplies.

Senator President pro Tem Steinberg Leaves Legacy for Children


From Senator Darrell Steinberg’s website - SB946 Autism Rally

California Senator Darrell Steinberg (Capital Region) interviewed this week on public radio and reflected on his six years as President pro Tem. 

At minute 21:25, he talks about important areas of public policy that “rarely rise to the top of the political pop charts” but we know have been areas the senator has passionately supported. Under his leadership, California has supported mental health funding, important foster care legislation and, most recently, insurance coverage and upcoming Medi-Cal coverage for children to receive autism services.

As his term draws to a close, we celebrate what Senator Steinberg has done for California’s children and families. And we’ll end with this quote from the interview. Reflecting on years he served during financially difficult times, he said: 

“You know, somebody once said to me that it’s much more fun to serve during good times, but it may be more important to serve during the tough times.”

By Age 8, He Knew All the Gang Territories

Hector’s Story


When I was 8, I could tell you all the gangs in my neighborhood, and show you each one’s turf and colors. I hated school, and most days I just skipped it to hang out with the older kids on my block. One time, I set fire to a trash can at school to try to get out of a test. I ended up being arrested and it went on my record.

At home I lived with my mom, two brothers and sister in an apartment where we all slept in the same room. My dad wasn’t around much, but when he was, he beat my mom. Many days we would only have enough food for one meal. Soon I started to get depressed about my life and just wouldn’t listen to anyone. When I would get frustrated, I would get really angry at my mom and my brothers. I hated everything and everyone.

When I first starting going to EMQ FamiliesFirst with my family, I thought it was stupid and boring, and I just wanted to leave. But I kept going because I liked spending time with José who spoke Spanish and knew about where I grew up. He would take me outside and we would just talk about stuff. He listened and helped me and my family come up with a plan.

And they made sure we had enough food and clean clothes, and that I saw a doctor when I needed to. 

Soon I looked forward to sessions with José, who would sometimes even visit us at our house. He helped me deal with all the bad stuff that happened, and showed me how making good choices can help me be happier. I even got my arrest record cleared. My life at home is so much better now, and I know my mom loves and cares for me. I started playing basketball again, which got me a whole new set of friends. School is going better too. I really like biology, and I hope to be able to go to college.

I couldn’t have turned my life around without José and EMQ FamiliesFirst.  

– Hector, age 14

The Impact of Severe Trauma and Neglect

Children like Hector who suffer severe trauma and neglect are at risk for multiple problems in adulthood, including having children of their own with behavioral difficulties. Early treatment offers the best possibility of breaking this cycle. 

Find out how you can provide school supplies in your area, or make a donation that will turn a child’s life around.

Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day is May 8 

Childhood Trauma Creates Cycle of Long-term Mental, Behavioral and Physical Health Problems 

Today is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.  Childhood trauma and behavioral health disorders in children put them at risk for multiple problems in adulthood, including having children of their own with behavioral difficulties. Preventing childhood trauma and early treatment of behavioral health disorders in children offer the possibility of breaking this cycle. Here are some key points:

  • As many as 1 in 5 children in the United States suffers from a mental health disorder.1
  • More than 422,000 children in California live with serious mental health conditions.2
  • One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three-quarters by age 24.3
  • Early neglect and trauma are strong predictors of various types of difficulties in adulthood, including physical health problems. Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions.4
  • Major behavioral health conditions in a parent – including schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and substance dependence – create a significant risk factor for their children having mental health disorders and other problems.5

Childhood Trauma and Mental Health Disorders

“Trauma” in childhood can mean anything from child abuse or severe neglect, to witnessing violence at home or in the community, to separation from family members and many other types of family crises. Some children experience “complex trauma,” which is exposure to multiple, long-term traumatic events. The youngest children, although unable to verbalize or show it, are often the most affected.

Childhood trauma puts a child at risk for multiple problems in adulthood, including but not limited to

  • Addiction
  • Chronic physical conditions
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Eating disorders
  • Other psychiatric disorders

The earlier the intervention, the better the chances of turning a child’s life around. 

For more information and resources, visit http://emqff.org/childrens-mental-health-awareness-day-may-8/

1    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013
2    Most recent data from Washington, DC: Department of Health and    Human Services, 2000 
3    Kessler, R.C, et al. “Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication,” General Psychiatry, 2005 
4    Colton, C.W. & Manderscheid, R.W. Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice and Policy, 2006
5    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012

One Gift. Two Smiles. Double Your Gift this Season.

One of our board members wants to help more children and their families this holiday season and into the New Year. She’s made the extraordinary offer of a matching giving for any donations made – up to $20,000 – through December 31.

In other words, your gift of $100 becomes $200 of holiday food and gifts for two families.

Donations of any size help give a child – perhaps for the first time – a holiday that is warm and joyful, with food on the table. In addition, donations help fund crucial programs that keep families together while they recover from crisis and trauma.

Make the most of your giving this year and donate to EMQ FamiliesFirst. Your donation will double – and kids will know the hope and joy of the holiday season.

Support your Favorite Charities – Give on #GivingTuesday, December 3 

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.

Can’t wait? Here’s how you can give today

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill 

Thank You to Our Dedicated Volunteers


From Darrell Evora, President & CEO

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. 

Our board members and regional board of governors commit their leadership skills to support policy development, fundraising efforts, and outreach to the broader community. 

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. 

P.S. If you’re in the Bay Area, please shop at our stores! Or learn more about volunteering to help kids in crisis.

Autism Services Launched in Inland Empire

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.