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Happy Birthday, Rosemary!

CWLA member agency also turns 90 this year

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As one of the pioneer advocates for children and families on the West Coast, CWLA member agency Rosemary Children’s Services (RCS) is celebrating 90 years of service in the Los Angeles community this year. The numbers alone show how far RCS has come, from its humble beginnings in April 1920 as Rosemary Cottage, which housed 10 girls and a housemother, to now catering to more than 150 children annually in its residential program. RCS started out as a small home for teenage girls in Pasadena, and gradually expanded over the years to accommodate four more group homes and implement several programs reaching a total of 450 children annually, such as a Non-Public School, Mental Health Services, and Foster Care and Adoption Services that cover Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange counties.

“Being able to have the longevity in the community is definitely something that speaks very highly of our organization. We have been able to grow our organization from just a single group home back in 1920 to a multifaceted organization with multiple programs for foster youth,” says Development Director Jennifer Radics.

The Vons Foundation gave Rosemary a grant for their independent Living Skills Program last October. Photo courtesy of Rosemary Children's Services.

The Residential Treatment Program houses girls ages 13 to 18. The program emphasizes a need for holistic development, with round-the-clock assistance from counselors for personal and academic help. The girls are also encouraged to be involved in their community through immersion in cultural activities, such as trips to museums.

Radics explains that an important aspect of surviving in the child welfare field for nearly a century requires sensitivity to the changing climate of child welfare issues and the evolving needs of children. According to a 1999 study of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at least one in five children suffered from mental health issues, and in 2007, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that 2 million children in the country suffer from ADHD. In response to this issue, the Mental Health Services program was created; 100% of RCS’s residents have mental health issues. “They come to us from broken and damaged homes, and we want to rehabilitate them to the point that they are able to deal with their issues through therapy and medication in order for them to gain independence and lead productive lives,” Radics says. Aside from treatment services, the program includes after-care services that aid youth in finding community resources to help them transition back into their families and communities.

While maintaining a strong relationship with its youth is one of RCS’s top priorities, Radics also points out the importance of fostering relationships with the community. In working closely with local organizations such as the Pasadena Police Department, she says that it is important to work together to successfully serve children in need and to promote their well-being. Through quarterly meetings, newsletters, mailings, and e-mails, RCS continues to include community members in its efforts to protect children.

RCS has reached out to the community for support even more in these economically trying times. But apart from financial assistance, RCS encourages its donors to take part in the organization’s volunteer opportunities. Radics says that through these activities, sponsors get a clearer understanding where their donations go, and how their money is helping children in their community.

RCS has increased its fundraising and grant writing efforts to cope with a 10% budget cut in the current 2009-2010 fiscal year. Some of their fundraising efforts include their upcoming event in June, An Evening with Star Chefs, where several chefs from acclaimed restaurants converge to support RCS. Star Chefs raised over $130,000 last year, with community members, local businesses, and media pitching in to help. This year, the Star Chefs event will be made even more special as it will highlight RCS’s 90th anniversary. Radics says that they will be incorporating their anniversary theme into all of their existing events for the next year.

The cottage built in 1928 as it is today, home to 19 teenage girls in the child welfare system. Photo courtesy of Rosemary Children's Services.

Radics attributes the organization’s survival in economic crisis to strong leadership and an ability to be forward-thinking. RCS has flourished under the leadership of CEO Greg Wessels, which Radics contributes to his extensive knowledge of the field. “Strong leadership with rich knowledge of the clientele that we serve as well as the industry we’re in really has made it easy to make it through the 90 years and progress each year,” Radics says. Wessels was able to enrich RCS’s programs with individual and family therapy sessions, Group Centered Leadership programs, and Day Treatment programs, among others. He has also spurred fundraising efforts to create a sports court in the Cottage and a remodeled facility in one of their campuses.

Strong leadership, a clear set of priorities, and a close relationship with its community has helped RCS survive through 90 years of service. Radics says that they hope to be around for another 90 years, and that by keeping in mind the needs of the community, their organization will continue to develop in sync with the needs of the area’s children.

Maria Carmela Sioco is an editorial intern at CWLA.

Helping Tots and Teens

Spearheaded by Navy veteran LaKeisha Fears-Perez, Utterly Terrific Tots and Teens is a part for-profit day care and part nonprofit center for foster youth who are about to leave the system. Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Utterly Terrific opened earlier this year in Knoxville, Tennessee, and aims to smooth the transition for teenage foster children who are about to live on their own. Fears-Perez created a program that gives teens the skills to live independently, with topics from nutrition to budgeting. The profits earned from Terrific Tots support the Terrific Teens program after hours.

Santa Speedo Run

Having first started in Boston 10 years ago, the Santa Speedo Run made its debut in Atlanta on December 12. The proceeds of this inaugural run went to CHRIS Kids, a CWLA member agency. Clad in their Speedos, runners were encouraged to inject creativity into their attire by wearing Santa hats, striped socks, or other holiday accessories. There was no cost to register for the mile-long run, but each participant was encouraged to raise at least $100 to support CHRIS Kids, which foc-uses on creativity, honor, respect, integrity, and safety.

Ready for Their Close-Up

Isolde Motley, an adoptive mother through CWLA member agency Spence-Chapin, was featured on “The Martha Stewart Show” last October. Motley authored You Can Adopt: An Adoptive Families Guide, which discusses adoption processes and issues families may face. Two other Spence-Chapin families were also featured. On the show, Motley stressed the importance of knowing “the kind of child you can parent best,” whether that is a child from an orphanage or a foster home, and debunked several myths about adoption. Her Ethiopian adoptive son, Senay, was also on the show.

To comment on this article, e-mail voice@cwla.org.

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