For more than 100 years, Aviva Family and Children’s Services has been offering hope, support, and guidance to vulnerable children and families in the Los Angeles community. Originally founded in 1915 to supply daycare services for working widows and mothers and to help World War I orphans find adoptive families, Aviva has grown over the years to become one of LA’s most important providers of support and therapeutic services for disadvantaged and at-risk families and children. With a staff of 260 dedicated professionals, Aviva serves over 6,500 children, young adults, and families (many of whom are living significantly under the federal poverty line) every year. The organization’s main focus areas include the following:
Families that are on the brink of having a child removed from the home need all the help they can get. That’s where Aviva’s Wraparound Services program comes in. With the goal of preserving family unity and empowering families to take the lead in their own treatment, the Wraparound Services program connects struggling families with a team of professionals and paraprofessionals who surround family and child alike with intensive treatment components. In previous years, Wraparound teams have delivered over 25,000 hours of services to families in crisis.
A particularly important member of the Wraparound team is the Parent Partner: a parent who is him or herself from a family that once endured similar problems and who can therefore relate directly to the challenges the family in need of support is facing. The Parent Partner plays a vital role in helping alleviate the feelings of embarrassment, shame, and denial that families in difficulty commonly experience. He or she also offers firsthand knowledge of how to make lasting changes that will strengthen bonds and help the family make a positive move forward together.
Community Mental Health Services
Ensuring the mental well-being of children and parents is an important part of building healthy bonds and creating a positive home environment for the whole family. Aviva’s teams of therapists and case managers work collaboratively in providing an array of programs to meet the needs of children and families where they can feel most comfortable.
One of the most important programs offered under Aviva’s umbrella of Community Mental Health Services is the Therapeutic Behavioral Services program. Unlike typical youth counseling programs, Therapeutic Behavioral Services offers young clients a one-on-one relationship with a trained staff member, known as a coach, at home, at school, or wherever they might need support.
The advantage of such a highly-focused, hands-on approach is that the coach can directly witness behaviors that may need improvement, which puts him or her in a better position to address these behaviors in a positive and non-judgmental manner. At the same time, youths can get immediate support when they face instances of conflict and other challenges in daily life, and can benefit from on-the-spot guidance when working on specific behaviors that may put them at risk.
Another vital Community Mental Health Services Program Aviva offers is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). A form of dyadic behavioral intervention that targets children between the ages of 2 and 7 (as well as their parents or caregivers), PCIT teaches traditional play-therapy skills to adults to help position them as social reinforcers of positive behavior in their child. Parents and caregivers receive coaching on these skills as they practice them with their child; this allows for rapid mastery that the parents can then draw on when outside the therapy playroom.
Foster Family and Adoption Services
Aviva’s licensed Foster Family and Adoption Services agency bases its efforts on the firm belief that family is a vital foundation for a child’s emotional well-being. As such, Aviva operates a comprehensive recruitment and screening process to ensure that prospective foster parents can provide a safe, structured, and nurturing home. The organization also seeks out a diverse range of foster parents in acknowledgement of the fact that a loving home can be created in many different settings. In addition, Aviva provides foster parents with extensive education to help them care for children with emotionally traumatic histories, and it offers further guidance throughout the fostering process (social workers at Aviva maintain a limited caseload in order to allow for weekly home visits, thorough oversight, and 24-hour, on-call support).
For high-need and high-risk children who have been through exceptionally difficult circumstances, such as physical or sexual abuse or extreme neglect, and who are at risk of being placed in a group home, Aviva operates an Intensive Treatment Foster Care (ITFC) Program. Blending standard features of foster family care with more intensive services, including counseling and case management, the ITFC program supports high-risk children between the ages of 6 and 18 with a dedicated team of therapists, support counselors, and specially trained foster parents who serve as primary caregivers. This intense level of support helps create a warm and nurturing home environment that encourages healthy growth and development for LA’s most vulnerable children.