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The Thomas C. Ackerman Foundation Awards $15,000 to the San Diego Center for Children

San Diego CA— The Thomas C. Ackerman Foundation has awarded $15,000 to the San Diego Center for Children which will be used to support the Center’s Empowered Families© program to better respond to the needs of families with a child suffering from mental, emotional, or behavioral challenges.

As a leader in San Diego for serving youth with mental health disorders, the Center created Empowered Families© to help families better understand and address the needs associated with caring for a child with challenges that not only impact the child’s personal well-being, but also can affect other members of the family, their school and their ability to thrive within the community.

Empowered Families© helps guide families through a process of identifying the needs of their child, along with needs of the entire family, through a Family Needs Assessment to help them develop and implement an individualized and comprehensive Family Action Plan. This plan serves as a roadmap for the clinician and the family to identify the information, skills, therapeutic services and community resources they need for the short and long-term.

This important process is also designed to identify the level of support a family may need to implement its Family Action Plan. While some families may need helpful information and encouragement, others may need coaching, advocacy, and greater assistance. The Family Needs Assessment and Family Action Plan have been developed by the Center’s President & CEO, Moisés Barón, Ph.D., during his career, and scaled with the expertise of the Center’s mental health professionals for the specific needs of parents and caregivers of a child with a mental health disorder.

In 2017, the Empowered Families© pilot program launched at the Center’s Family Wellness Center, serving nearly half of its client base with this newly-developed methodology. In addition to the child’s progress in treatment, outcomes being tracked include parental stress and family empowerment measures.

To serve more families and to do so more efficiently, the Center is now developing a web-based platform to help families complete the Family Needs Assessment and provide them access to their goals and action items of their plan remotely through their phone or tablet. This technology will give families greater access to the guidance they may need. Additionally, this will help the Center have access to real-time data on how children and families are reaching their goals and identify aggregate areas of progress, as well as areas of roadblocks that need to be more effectively addressed.

Mental health challenges affect one in five youth in San Diego. These challenges impact a child’s ability to manage emotions, communicate with others, learn, cope with various stressors, plan for the future, and if not treated, can be of great detriment for young people in becoming independent, autonomous and productive members of our community. In many cases today, the family is charged with significant responsibility in identifying who can help their child and is often required to navigate a system of separate providers and resources to help their child and the family.

The Center’s work in this area, supported by philanthropic partners, aims to alleviate one of California’s most critical issues of effectively and holistically addressing the mental health concerns for children and teens. It is estimated that over 50% of youth in California may need mental health care and/or counseling by the age 18, while less than 20% receive the help they need. Over 50% of students with a mental health disorder at the age of 14 and older drop out of high school—the highest dropout rate of any group. Additionally, racial and ethnic minorities are less likely as well to have access to mental health services and often receive a poorer quality of care.

The San Diego Center for Children, founded in 1887, is the oldest children’s non-profit in San Diego. The Center provides therapeutic care, specialized education and critical life skills to more than 1,000 children and their families every day in eight program sites and hundreds of homes and schools across the county.