The Help Group Child and Family Center
Families in our society today face tremendous challenges with the prevalence of gang violence, substance abuse, domestic violence, poverty, unemployment and other stressors which increases the likelihood that child abuse will occur. Childhood should be a time of exploration, expression, imagination, learning and discovery. Unfortunately, for many children it is a time of fear, confusion and sadness. Recognizing that the challenges in our community are complex, The Help Group Child and Family Center offers a continuum of services to address the unique needs of each child and family. The Help Group Child and Family Center (THGCFC) is a family-focused, child-centered mental health provider offering comprehensive services to the children and the families of our community. The Help Group is inspired by its belief that hope, dignity and opportunity are the cornerstone for every child and family to lead a positive, productive life.
The Help Group Child and Family Center, one of the largest mental health providers in Los Angeles County, has provided services through the Department of Children and Family Services and Department of Mental Health (DMH) since 1985. HGCFC was one of the first in Los Angeles County to be at the forefront of implementing the Sensitive Services MediCal Program, and served as a pilot program for Coordinated Care.
The Help Group, through its many specialized clinical and educational programs, provides assistance to children and families within their communities through its Child and Family Center therapeutic and educational programs. HGCFC is a legal entity of The Help Group that focuses on strengthening individuals and families through improving mental health, maximizing access to care and community resources. HGCFC has a long history of developing and growing programs in response to the special populations and growing needs of the families in our community. Together we envision a community filled with hope, courage and progress.
The Help Group has provided services in Service Area 2 (SA 2) for over 20 years and expanded its continuum of comprehensive educational and clinical support to the Westside in 2000. In addition, the programs within each of The Help Group’s agencies are offered individually or may be combined to address the unique needs of each child and family. The Help Group services are accredited through CARF, the gold standard for behavioral health practices.
To meet the needs of the diverse community we serve, The Help Group employs bilingual and bicultural clinicians and staff that can provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services in English, Spanish, Farsi, Armenian, Hebrew, Arabic and Russian. This multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural, and multi-linguistic team consists of Master’s level therapists, licensed mental health professionals, Bachelor’s level case managers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and a number of licensed clinical supervisors. Each team member is trained in HIPPA compliance, Child Abuse Reporting, Confidentiality and Limits to Confidentiality. All therapists provide Field Capable Clinical Services (FCCS), Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment of Children (EPSDT) and Enhanced Mental Health (EMH) services. Selected therapists have been trained in evidence-based practices and work consistently within the models. Current Evidenced-Based Practices offered through The Help Group Child and Family Center include: Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Positive Parenting Program (Triple P), Child Parent Psychotherapy (CPP), Seeking Safety (SS), CBITS and Managing & Adapting Practices (MAP). Some of our licensed therapists are certified to provide domestic violence and substance abuse services. All potential employees undergo background checks, TB testing and reference checks.
CalWORKs Mental Health Treatment
CalWORKs’ re-designed Mental Health Treatment services at The Help Group Child and Family Center are provided to recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) with a focus on assisting clients to overcome obstacles to securing and retaining employment. Mental health services include individual and group therapy, psychiatric assessment and medication support, and supported employment services, as well as case management services.
The lead agency for administration of Los Angeles County’s CalWORKs Welfare-to-Work program is the Department of Social Services (DPSS). The Help Group’s CalWORKs program adheres to and is in compliance with DMH and DPSS policies and up-to-date changes. The overall goal of the Los Angeles County CalWORKs program is to improve the lives of children and families by assisting adults and caretakers to become economically self-sufficient.
Program Goals and Objectives
The CalWORKs clinical team at The Help Group is comprised of experienced social workers, clinicians, supervisors, psychiatrists, case managers and employment specialists, trained in various Evidenced-Based Practices, including Seeking Safety, Positive Parenting (Triple P), Trauma Focused CBT and Supported Employment EBP. The Help Group’s CalWORKs program provides a broad array of mental health services to adult CalWORKs/GAIN participants whose clinical assessments have determined that they have a mental health related barrier to employment. Most recent studies indicate a higher prevalence of mental health disorders among welfare recipients than the general population.
These mental health services are family focused and include:
Comprehensive individual and/or family therapeutic assessments and treatment
Comprehensive psychiatric assessments and medication management treatment
Case management assessments; resources and/or linkage (housing, food, transportation, educational, childcare, vocational, specialized supportive and recreational services/resources) as needed
Supported Employment services; including four phases of employment service (intake, assessment, job placement, job coaching) and follow-along supports before step down to less intensive employment support from another mental health practitioner.
Multiple specialized therapeutic and educational groups, including Life Skills, Vocational Skills, Parent Education, Child-Abuse Prevention groups, Seeking Safety and a group for victims of Domestic Violence.
Joanna, a 43-year-old Middle Eastern female, began services at The Help Group in 2014 and has since made tremendous progress towards employment and reaching her goals. Joanna came to therapy with a long history of trauma including verbal and physical abuse by her husband for many years. Separated from her husband, she was now a single mother of two and the only member of her family residing in the United States. When Joanna entered therapy, she appeared helpless and hopeless in many ways. She lacked self-confidence and faced conflicts and challenges in her life with fear and self-doubt. Happily, the Joanna today is not the same client who entered therapy two years ago.
Joanna’s barriers to employment included severe symptoms of depression, including isolation, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating and increased irritability. Joanna also suffered from constant anxiety about her future, children and career. With the support of her clinician, case manager and Employment Specialist at The Help Group, Joanna has been able to overcome her social isolation and fears by attending workshops, career trainings, the Life Skills group and therapy sessions consistently. Joanna has actively participated in the employment workshops by coming prepared and contributing to the group process by sharing her own personal experiences, as well as making connections with other clients. In addition, she has attended a steering committee and met with various employers and community members, where she learned how to advocate for herself and develop communication skills to help with possible employment opportunities. Joanna has engaged in Individual Placement and Support (IPS) services consistently and works collaboratively with our employment specialist to improve her chances of securing a job in the near future.
Joanna has developed a strong sense of self and has been applying for jobs independently and interviewing. She is taking better care of herself and has even begun dating and socializing. Joanna stands as an example of a highly motivated individual who has made a lot of progress throughout her journey at The Help Group. She has time and again expressed her gratitude to the Outpatient Services program and specifically the CW team, for giving her the opportunity to “make over” her life.
When Francisco first came to The Help Group last year and enrolled in the CalWORKs (CW) program, he was struggling to overcome many barriers to employment, some of which had their roots in his traumatic childhood. At just 13 years old, he was drafted into the Sandinista army and fought in guerilla jungle warfare for 8 years, witnessing many of his close comrades die at close range. Francisco wanted a different future for himself, so he managed to get out of the army, worked hard to complete a business degree and was able to immigrate to the United States.
In the U.S., he worked as a district manager for a food chain company, but unfortunately, his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was triggered when he witnessed the death of a stranger on the streets of Van Nuys. After that, he suffered an emotional breakdown and began experiencing panic attacks that left him unable to work. When Francisco started at The Help Group, this 44-year-old single father had intense difficulties in social settings, felt uncomfortable in one-on-one therapy and had low self-confidence related to his limitations with the English language and his ability to perform job tasks.
As time progressed, Francisco became committed to attending weekly therapy sessions at The Help Group’s Van Nuys Campus and began to build familiarity with the CWs team. Eventually, he agreed to attend the weekly Life Skills group, where he was able to interact with other participants and significantly improve his social skills. Some months later, after Francisco became comfortable with the social stress of group therapy, he was enrolled in Individual Placement and Support (IPS) services in order to work towards employment. At the first introduction with IPS services and his Employment Specialist, Francisco’s feelings of anxiety were so intense that he was unable to get out of the car to come into the office. Through working closely with his clinician, psychiatrist, case manager and employment specialist, and after much patience and courage, Francisco reported feeling empowered and excited about the prospect of employment.
He is currently actively and eagerly applying for jobs, going on interviews and volunteering weekly at his children’s school. He is looking for employment in which he is independent and in control of his environment but will still have the opportunity to interact with people. Francisco, who at the beginning of services had applied for SSI and had given up on finding employment, is now looking to his future with optimism and self-confidence and has expressed his gratitude towards the CalWORKs team at The Help Group.
CAPIT/AB1733 Child Abuse Prevention, Intervention & Treatment and Family Support Programs
The Help Group Child and Family Center’s Child Abuse and Prevention Program (CAPIT/AB1733) offers comprehensive services for children and families at risk for child abuse and/or neglect. This program is designed to promote child safety and empowerment of families with supportive services needed to meet their goals to achieve stability. The Help Group partners with families and communities to assist each family to create their own plans for recovery and provides an array of services, including parent education and support, family and individual psychotherapy, case management, community outreach services and crisis management.
Understanding the importance of the Five Protective Factors Model, which includes parental resilience, social connections, knowledge, concrete support and social/emotional competence, The Help Group offers various parenting education support groups in Spanish, English and Russian. The parent education program includes interactive and didactic lessons focusing on anger management, child development and impulse control. A certificate is provided for each participant who completes 20 classes.The aim of the parenting programs is to enhance families’ strengths and to provide the support and resources necessary to create the best possible environment for the development of children and youth.
Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Program
The Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Program (EPSDT) is the child health component of the federal Medicaid program through which The Help Group provides a broad range of mental health services, including individual therapy, family therapy, case management and psychiatric support for children ages 3 to 21 and their families with full-scope Medi-Cal and Healthy Families insurance coverage.
Family Preservation Mental Health Services
This outpatient program provides intensive mental health treatment, medication management, case management and a parenting program for families identified by the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) as experiencing problems in family functioning characterized by child abuse and/or neglect. Families receive weekly in-home and office-based services, including individual and family counseling, child abuse prevention, parent education, parent training classes and support groups.
Multidisciplinary Assessment Team (MAT)
Multidisciplinary Assessment Team (MAT) is a collaborative effort between The Help Group, other community providers, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health to conduct timely, strengths-based and comprehensive assessments of children and youth entering out-of-home placement. MAT assessments are designed to help identify and meet the special needs that children may have, in order to avoid, if possible, lengthy separation from their families. Goals of the program include earlier access to medical and mental health services for children and families and increased collaboration between families, caregivers, service providers and government agencies.
Prevention and Early Intervention Program (PEI)
The Help Group provides several Evidence-Based Practices, as part of the Prevention and Early Intervention Program funded through the Mental Health Services Act. Evidence-Based Practices currently being offered include Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) to address symptoms related to trauma; Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) to assist parents in managing their child’s challenging behaviors; Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP), which promotes and strengthens the relationship between caregiver and child; Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS), which is a school-based group to address trauma; Managing and Adapting Practices (MAP) to address anxiety, depression and disruptive disorders; and Seeking Safety, which focuses on co-occurring disorders in Transitional-Age Youth (ages 16 to 25).
School-Based Mental Health Treatment
School-Based Mental Health Program is a mental health program provided in schools through a partnership and collaboration between the local school district or private/charter school and the Help Group’s Child and Family Center. Its mission is to promote and strengthen students’ social and emotional well-being and their respective families so children can access learning. Through this collaboration, School-Based Mental Health services offered by the Help Group can provide consultation, prevention, assessment, treatment and linkage to other resources and services.School-based services are funded by the following sources: Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT), Field Capable Clinical Services (FCCS) and Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI).
Individual child/adolescent therapy is offered on-site at local public schools for children/adolescents identified as being at-risk by school personnel. If indicated, family therapy, collateral visits/consultations, targeted case management, medication management and parenting groups are offered to the school-based client and their family either on site at The Help Group site or in home. The Help Group’s multi-cultural and multi-linguistic team of clinicians provides services in English, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, Farsi and Arabic.
Additionally, the school-based coordinator conducts in-service trainings for all schools at various times during the year. The coordinator meets with each school to discuss service delivery plans and how to identify students for mental health services.
This program is currently offered in the following schools of the Los Angeles Unified School District:
Bertrand Avenue Elementary
Canoga Park High School
Crescent Heights Elementary
Grant High School
Hamilton High School
Harding Street Elementary
Marina Del Rey Middle School
Mark Twain Middle School
Miliken Middle School
Palms Middle School
Riverside Drive Elementary
Shirley Avenue Elementary
Stagg Avenue Elementary
Verdugo Hills High School
Webster Middle School
Woodland Hills Academy
The program is currently offered in the following charter schools:
Multicultural Learning Center (Charter) K-8
CAPPS (Center for the Assessment and Prevention of Prodromal States)
CAPPS is a prevention and early intervention program that focuses on youth and young adults, ages 16-25, who are in danger of experiencing their first-break psychosis and their families. The program provides early prevention strategies aimed at identifying individuals at risk for psychosis, and it provides preventative interventions targeting both conversion to psychosis and functional disability in clients who are experiencing prodromal symptoms of their first-break psychosis. This early intervention component can greatly increase positive outcomes in several life domains including family relationships, school, work, and social functioning. Early intervention is aimed at reducing the risk of developing a severe and chronic mental disorder, and reducing the severity of the disorder after onset. The program is comprehensive and includes individual, group, and family therapy, parent education, referral for neuropsychosocial assessment, medication support, case management needs assessment and linkage to resources.
For more information please contact:
Therese Stephano, MFT CAPPS Program Clinical Supervisor, at TStephano@thehelpgroup.org
Veronica Valdez, BA OP Intake Coordinator, at Vvaldez@thehelpgroup.org
Therapeutic Behavioral Services
Therapeutic Behavioral Services (TBS) is a short-term intervention program focused on giving individual support to children and youth, their caregivers and other care providers, such as group home staff and school personnel in order to learn new ways of reducing and managing challenging behaviors. TBS is specifically intended to meet the needs of children and youth at risk of being placed in a higher level of care (hospital or group home) or undergoing a transition to a lower level of care. These services are adjunctive to current mental health services and are conducted wherever presenting problems occur (home, group home, community, school).
TBS specialists will work to:
Identify triggers and defense mechanisms to develop behavioral interventions where the client has the most difficulty.
Utilize cognitive behavioral techniques through observation and behavior analysis to design an intervention program that can reduce or eliminate target behaviors, or replace target behaviors with more adaptive behaviors.
Utilize techniques such as self monitoring, formation and utilization of coping skills, relaxation techniques, communication skills, identification of consequences and creation of incentives programs coupled with skill-building interventions.
Coach caregivers to assist them in creating a more positive home environment.
Disseminate information to caregiver and clinician for discussion and facilitate continuity of care.
To be eligible for TBS, a client must be under the age of 21, have full scope Medi-Cal and currently be receiving MHS services (and the client’s presenting behaviors/symptoms are not responding to current mental health services). Client also must be in jeopardy of losing current living situation.
A client must also meet one of the following criteria:
Actively being considered for an RCL 12 or higher or currently placed there
Transitioning from an RCL 12 or higher to a lower level of care
Has been psychiatrically hospitalized in the last 24 months
Currently at risk of psychiatric hospitalization
Received TBS as a class member in the past
Olga Zysman, MFT
Senior Director of Outpatient Services & Programs, SPA-2, SPA-5
Vera Gisis, LCSW
Assistant Director of Outpatient Programs, Van Nuys
Agueda Cabrera, MFT
Assistant Director of Outpatient Services, Van Nuys
Melissa Fernandez, LCSW
Director of Outpatient Services, Culver City
Van Nuys Campus
15339 Saticoy St.
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Cristina Rivera LMFT
Intake Coordinator for the San Fernando Valley
Culver City Campus
12099 Washington Blvd. Suite 200
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Intake Coordinator for Culver City