Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services takes care of nearly 50 foster youth on their campus on the Westside of Los Angeles.
Originally called The Jewish Orphans Home of Southern California, the center has been around since 1908 and helps children and families with schooling, mental health services and adoption assistance.
Lena Wilson, President and CEO of the organization, told Inside the Issues the kids living on campus have missed interacting with their families during safer at home orders. Still, they are utilizing virtual calls in the meantime.
“It’s very difficult for them because these kids are already separated from their families, and because of the pandemic and outbreak, we’ve had to really limit what type of visitation these kids have,” she said.
Being cut off from the outside world and disrupting their normal activities have been hard adjustments for some of the kids.
“We’re trying to present a sense of calm, while also making sure that we realize that every single youth that we deal with has different needs and is experiencing this from their past trauma and how we can make sure we are engaging with them and supportive of them as all of them go individually through this crisis,” Wilson said.
In addition to Zoom or FaceTime calls with parents, Wilson said the staff has “been extremely creative” in improvising how to engage and entertain the youth once it was clear they would need to adjust to the provisions that have come along with the orders to stay at home.
“We've done a scavenger hunt for the youth so they can go out and just get some fresh air and really engage and take their minds off of what's going on,” she detailed.
According to Wilson, the center has not experienced an outbreak, and all youth have been healthy and safe.
The organization has individualized learning plans to help the needs of the child. Teachers can help guide these students and their parents through the lesson and provide additional support to aid in learning.
“We've developed this system where the teachers engage in a lesson with several students at one time, we then have what we call the behavioral aide or one-on-one and that one-on-one is a person that’s completely dedicated to that youth,” she said.
Wilson said the pandemic may have a lasting impact on many of these students. Kids at the school are provided with two meals per day, and now that they are home, they could be struggling with access to food. She said the plan to alleviate those impacts is essential and needs to include access to mental health services.
“There’s young kids at home, and they haven't really been able to understand what's going on and it’s difficult for them to have the words and to explain what's going on,” she said. They will need a place where they can talk about what they experienced and have someone explain to them what happened and it won’t last forever.
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