CommUnify has launched Familias Seguras/Secure Families, a California Violence Intervention and Prevention Program, which will be implemented in Santa Maria to address the root causes of rising rates of violence.
Familias Seguras/Secure Families will provide early intervention by identifying 60 at-risk youths in fifth grade and supporting them and their households over a three-year period with comprehensive services and referrals.
Familias Seguras/Secure Families was awarded $2,524,469 from the Board of State and Community Corrections. The program emphasizes collaboration between community organizations, agencies and school districts.
CommUnify is working in partnership with other human service organizations, schools, county and city government, higher education and law enforcement to ensure success including Family Service Agency/Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center, Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, the Santa Maria-Bonita School District, UCSB, the Santa Barbara County Behavioral Wellness Department, the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services, the Santa Maria Police Department, the Santa Maria mayor’s office and the Santa Barbara County Probation Department.
These partner organizations will provide in-kind services to meet the $1-to-$1 matching funds requirement for the Cal-VIP grant.
“We are very much looking forward to leading this collaboration with such a high caliber of partner organizations,” said Patricia Keelean, CEO of CommUnify. “Providing these wraparound services to the most vulnerable youth and families of Santa Maria will put them on a path to a healthier, more stable future and impact the community in a positive way by addressing the root causes of violence.”
CommUnify will take a leadership role in overseeing Familias Seguras/Secure Families. CommUnify and partner organizations will begin identification and orientation of students in fifth grade and their families who are the most at-risk for violence through comprehensive assessments of their strengths and risk factors. Once the need has been identified, CommUnify will provide intensive case management including weekly consultations to seventh- and eighth-grade students with an individualized 12-to-18-month service plan for students and their households.
“We are excited about this opportunity to help reduce violence in the Santa Maria community,” according to Seth Miller, CommUnify’s director of Family and Youth Services. “Familias Seguras/Secure Families is funded through Cal-VIP for three years with the vision of supporting youth at one of the most crucial times in a young person’s social, emotional and academic development.
“By providing these whole-household services we believe this program can change the trajectory of that youth’s future.”
Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino said the city is looking forward to working with local agencies, law enforcement and school district administrators to implement the program. “We are so grateful for this funding and look forward to working together to have a positive influence reducing the violence in our community.”
Founded in Santa Maria in 2003, Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley has been involved with the prevention of violence and recognizes that this is a battle that must be fought on many levels and must involve the entire household to be effective, according to a news release. Familias Seguras/Secure Families focuses on households that have been identified as the highest at risk to commit violence.
Part of the FBSMV’s responsibilities include overseeing El Joven Noble cohorts for youth and Parent Project cohorts for parents, assisting sixth-grade students as they transition to junior high school and providing on-site guidance and crisis intervention services during school hours.
“As someone who lives and works in Santa Maria, I am very hopeful for the impact that this new program will provide to the youth who are most in need. We are proud to work with such great agencies that continue to put the needs of the children and their families first,” said Edwin Weaver, executive director of Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley.
“This intervention is holistic and aspires to be culturally competent as well as trauma-informed, and I believe many young people will get the help they need and that their parents want for them.”
As part of Familias Seguras/Secure Families, mental health services with coordinated treatment plans will be provided to 20% to 30% of youth and their families by Family Service Agency/Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center. Included will be 20 weeks of intensive cognitive behavioral therapy with the option to extend as needed, and pre- and post- assessments will be completed for participants.
“FSA is happy to be a partner on this important new resource for Santa Maria families by providing mental health services and support for the development of effective coping tools,” said Lisa Brabo, CEO for Family Service Agency/Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center.