When children are in danger of abuse or neglect in their homes, county agencies must intervene and remove them from their families. The instability and harm many of these children suffer can cause trauma that requires help that foster families, supported by Aldea staff, can provide. By placing these children in a safe and caring foster home, Aldea ensures they get the support they need to heal.
Aldea is the essential community partner for children and families. The experience and support of Aldeas highly trained and committed staff has helped many families successfully support foster children and adoption. One example is an Aldea foster family, who recently moved out of state, that cared for seven foster children, who had all been removed from their homes due to varying types of trauma. They each had their own unique needs and challenges, but had been brought together to share one loving home.
Steve and Michelle Kiefer worked with Aldea for several years, fostering children with a wide range of mental, emotional, and physical challenges. They acknowledge they could not effectively support their kids without a network of responsive experts on the journey with them.
“If you can leverage what you have to influence the life of just one child and the way they see themselves, through such a vulnerable season of their life, you’ll be forever grateful that you did" Steve adds, “Aldea is there with ongoing support when you need it, to make sure both you and your kids can be hopeful about the future.”
Aldea has walked with the Keifers from day one to help provide individualized care for each child, as well as the holistic support needed for the entire family to thrive.
In critical moments, the company of trusted experts from Aldea makes all the difference in the lives of children and families. To keep supporting foster children, we rely on the community to become approved as loving, supportive and trained foster families. Making a real difference in the lives of children who need help begins with simply a willing heart and a commitment to care.
If you are interested in becoming an Approved Resource Family with Aldea or have any questions regarding foster care and/or foster to adopt programs, fill out a pre-orientation questionnaire online. You can also attend a live orientation via Zoom, held on the second Tuesday of every month from 5:15 pm to 7:15 pm. Our Family Recruiter, Holly Carter, is available to answer any questions about the process of becoming an Approved Resource Family and to support you throughout the process. She can be reached at 707-557-4560 or email email@example.com.
For all information, visit our website at aldeainc.org.
When children are welcomed into a safe and loving home, they find both short-term comfort and long-term resilience.
By Jennifer Huffman
What will the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 stimulus money mean for Napa kids, especially those in poverty?
That’s the question that local agencies and nonprofits are all asking, now that billions in tax breaks, direct payments and other measures begin to flow into the American economy, and trickle down to the local level.
Experts who work in the industry said they are optimistic that the funds will make a difference for their clients.
“We know that for some, it will be money directly in their pockets,” in the form of tax savings, said Debbie Peralez, executive director of Child Start Inc. in Napa. Child Start programs benefit low-income families.
Child Start families live at the federal poverty line or below, and they will get benefits, such as a child tax credit and other tax breaks, Peralez said.
“There’s a general sense of relief that there seems to be a plan,” to recover from the pandemic, she said. “There’s an awareness we need to get kids back to school and increase childcare options and (now) there’s going to be money to do (that).”
Notably, “We’re also hoping we can increase our enrollment,” in Head Start programs that provide quality child care and education, which means more families can have children in care so one or more parents can get back to work, she said.
She hasn’t come up with a “wish list” quite yet, said Peralez. “We usually like to wait and see what the parameters are going to be. But anything that will help us get back to normal operations,” is key, she said.
During the pandemic, most classroom sizes had to be cut in half. “We’re not serving our full enrollment. We would like to get back to full enrollment.”
Kerry Ahearn, CEO of Aldea Children & Family Services in Napa, said she definitely feels encouraged by the expected aid. Aldea provides mental health treatment and other support services to the community.
“It’s really putting a priority on the mental health and wellness of people in our community but the devil is in the details,” said Ahearn. “That always concerns me. The state and county has to decide how to divvy up the funds. I am hopeful. I know they want to get this money out fast.”
The isolation of COVID-19 has been a great strain on many in the community, especially children, said Ahearn.
Substance abuse, anxiety and depression have increased, said Ahearn. “We are seeing an increase in referrals to mental health services for kids and families. Everybody had to pivot to make huge changes in their lives, in work and school,” she said. That stress impacts everybody.
Additional funds means that Aldea can increase its engagement with the community, meeting people where they are at and bringing resources to their doorsteps.
“We need to hire more staff to make sure we are serving all of these kids and families.”
Thankfully, the nonprofit did get a PPP loan. Without such aid, “it would have been devastating,” said Ahearn. “We would have lost a lot of staff and not have been able to bounce back as quickly.”
“Because of the fires, and no school, and the pandemic, we lost that connection. We need to re-engage the community and go out to where they are and get them resources.”
All of this has an impact on poverty, said Ahearn.
“If the family is poor and worried about feeding kids and keeping their home and making the next rent payment, paying attention to their mental health issues is not the priority. It’s basic needs first.”
Greg Bouillerce, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley, said that these funds “could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of Napa Valley children.”
The Napa club was the first youth-serving organization in Napa County to open in the midst of the pandemic, in June of 2020, and has been providing full-service distance learning support for virtual learners since September of that year, he said.
“Full service means our staff are working with cohorts of 10 to ensure kids sign on to Zoom lessons, get help with homework, get access to healthy and nutritious meal service and most importantly still have a place to safely socialize with their friends,” he said.
Up to this point, he said, “A lot of our effort has been focused on how we mitigate the impact of COVID-19 for kids. We’re excited because the conversation gets to shift from mitigation to recovery. How do we address the academic atrophy that’s taken place by getting kids into programs to help address some of the losses we’ve sustained over the last year?”
More funding, such as from this aid, means that Bouillerce can increase club hours and add staff. That means more kids can come to the club locations, which can have a trickle-down effect on poverty.
Families pay a greatly reduced amount to be members, he said. If enrollment can increase, “you are giving families the opportunity to make sure their kids have a safe place to go so their parent can go to work and those businesses have employees,” and customers to shop.
Of course, this funding is all new. “We haven’t heard from any of our partners yet to what degree that pass-through funding will be. We are looking to participate in that discussion so we can be a part of the planning process,” Bouillerce said.
Elba Gonzalez-Mares, executive director at Napa’s Community Health Initiative, said the projected funding “is tremendous.” Community Health Initiative, or CHI, helps ensure that children have access to comprehensive, quality healthcare.
“To me, it’s sending the right message that there are more funds available for this work,” of providing quality health insurance for children and families.
“Individuals will be able to see more options in terms of affordability for health care. That trickles down to families’ finances.”
Gonzalez-Mares explained that when a family is not burdened by the cost of medical bills and medical care “that means they are able to focus their energy and resources to meet their other needs such as childcare, housing and education,” and that leads to better outcomes.
When those basic needs are met, “the individual is more likely to be able to thrive and succeed in life. That opens up more opportunity especially for our vulnerable populations to focus on opportunities versus just everyday surviving and struggles.”
Joelle Gallagher is the executive director of First 5 in Napa County. This government agency supports children ages 0 to 5, and families, by funding different initiatives.
“It’s great to put money into the pockets of families—we need to be doing that right now,” during these tough times, said Gallagher.
However, she doesn’t yet know enough about the rescue plan to understand if the funds are one-time grants or not.
For example, “If there were tax credits that were permanent, that’d be helpful.”
As Gallagher pointed out, “I don’t think anyone is going to be permanently brought out of poverty because of a one-time tax credit. That doesn’t mean it’s not helpful, but there’s a bigger picture here,” to consider.
“The kinds of things that affect childhood poverty are their parents making a living wage and being able to afford the homes we live in,” Gallagher said.
Her suggestion? “Let’s come up with some creative ideas so some of it makes a permanent change in the status of poor families and helps them move out of poverty.”
Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership has announced nominees for the sixth annual Heart of Napa Awards. Heart of Napa supports the local Napa nonprofit sector, giving $22,500 to Napa organizations and the committed individuals who serve them. A virtual awards ceremony is planned March 18 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Awards are sponsored by area groups, and Bank of Marin is a presenting sponsor. We are proud to announce Kerry Ahearn, LCSW and Aldea’s CEO, has been nominated for Excellence in Leadership.
Nominees for Excellence in Leadership (sponsored by Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership and Pacific Gas & Company):
Kerry Ahearn, Aldea Children and Family Services
Tony Fletcher, Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind
Michele Grupe, Cope Family Center
Aimée Guillot and Olivia Cowell, Cafeteria Kids Theater
Nataly Kuznetsov, Disaster Responder Assets Network
Claudia Sonder, Napa Community Animal Response Team
Pablo Zatarain, Fair Housing Napa Valley
Hilary Zunin, Napa Valley CanDo
Julie Burns, LCSW, has been promoted to chief program officer at Aldea Children and Family Services, overseeing all programs and operations including behavioral health, social services, and victim- centered services.
Burns is a licensed clinical social worker who came to Aldea from Yolo County probation where she was a program manager.
“This is a new position that combines both senior director positions into one to oversee all programmatic operations in the social services and behavioral health divisions," said CEO Kerry Ahearn.
NAPA, Calif. – October 13, 2020–Julie Burns, LCSW has been promoted to Chief Program Officer. overseeing all programs and operations including Behavioral Health, Social Services and Victim Centered Services. Burns is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who came to Aldea from Yolo County Probation where she was a Program Manager. She brings 10+ years of experience in organization administration, program analysis and development, facility operations, workforce development, crisis management and decision making, behavioral health and substance use assessment and treatment in correctional healthcare, community organization, residential facility, and law enforcement environments. “This is a new position that combines both Senior Director positions into one to oversee all programmatic operations in the Social Services and Behavioral Health Divisions. Creating one position over both divisions will maximize efficiencies, with attention being focused on the internal functioning of the agency, overseeing Aldea’s culture of valuing and caring for staff to ensure they are equipped to care for our clients is a priority.” said Kerry Ahearn, Chief Executive Officer.
About Aldea Children & Family Services: Aldea is the essential community partner for children and families in crisis. We believe that in a family’s most critical moments, the company of a trusted professional can mean the difference between strength and suffering.
Every day, our expert staff walks with young people on their journey to healing, providing the care that brings both short term comfort and long-term resilience. Because with a community of support, they discover their own ability to create a new life, one moment at a time. For more information please go to their website at aldeainc.org or call 707-224-8266.