East Bay agency helps children cope with violence


Growing up in parts of East Oakland can be scary.

"Usually I take out the trash by myself at night," said one young Oakland girl. "But after the shootings started, I have to go with my brothers."

Another young Oakland boy added, "When I moved here, I thought it was a beautiful place, but then when I stayed, more bad things started to happen."

Kids growing up here see things that most of us only hear about on the news.

"We're not seeing one event that's a massacre the way Newtown was, but lots of chronic events that really add up to trauma for these kids," said mental health services coordinator Eliza Schiffrin.

It's a daily assault that takes a big toll.

"We had an 8-year-old on suicide watch just recently," EBAC Development Director Julie West said. "And it's incredibly draining to work day-to-day in an environment where you see that."

The non-profit East Bay Agency for Children, or EBAC, is helping kids cope with violence.

"We provide services that really give children the extra services they need to be able to succeed academically, emotionally, and really to be good contributing citizens in this community," West said.

For 60 years, EBAC has offered mental health and support services in Alameda County. It has 13 programs to help 19,000 families at 30 schools in Alameda County every year.

Many of those programs operate here, at the "World and Achieve Academies" in the Fruitvale District of Oakland.

"While it's a beautiful and wonderful community, the reality is that it's also seen its share of tough times," World and Achieve Academies Principal Stephen Tilono said. "So our kids come with special needs, and EBAC is able to address those."

EBAC's goal is to invest in children while they are young, hoping to prevent more problems as they get older.

Programs like this aren't just important to kids in the EBAC programs. The National Academy of Sciences found that just a $1 investment in a child's mental health, saves taxpayers $28 of future social services.

EBAC's programs cover many of the most severe issues children can face -- anger management for kids who've been to jail, counseling for victims of child abuse or kids who have witnessed violence. There's even a therapeutic nursery school.

"We have a great success rate where children are able to mainstream into regular schools," mental health resource specialist Tameikia Brown said. "They're not, like, left in day treatment and they can excel and create a nice home at a normal environment."

For older kids there are after school programs. And they include parents in the process.

"They try to get the kids ready," parent Deyma Aguilar said. "Not to be nervous, not to be afraid of being in school, that they show them that they are not going to just sit down and study, but that they are going to enjoy school."

Many of the families that need the most help don't speak English, so EBAC teaches them.

If success were measured in smiles, the East Bay Agency for Children would be off the charts.

"Because I like to try new things, and because here, they let me try new things," one young boy said.

Another young girl added, "I like to read Doctor Suess books, a lot of doctor books, a lot of president books, because I want be a president when I grow up."

As we mentioned, the East Bay Agency for Children is a non-profit group. They can always use money to fund the great work they do. To find out how you can help, click here.

written and produced by Ken Miguel

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