By. Diana Sevanian
Thursday March 11, 2004
Cindy is 15 and four months pregnant with her 17-year-old boyfriend’s baby.
Thirteen-year-old Adam is depressed over his parents’ recent divorce and father’s occasional abuse.
When Ronnie gets out of junior high each day, he hangs out on the streets with his friends – after all, no one is home and he has nothing better to do.
While these youngsters are fictitious, in reality, there are many like them in this, and every other community.
To help children get on the right path in life, the Child and Family Center offers mental health services and programs to youth and families, including low-income families. One such program is Circle of Care, which offers support, education and resource referrals to teen parents. Another is the Family Preservation Program, which helps families stay intact in child-safe environments.
On March 4, both entities hosted a Quarterly Collaborative Luncheon at the Child and Family Center in Santa Clarita.
Attended by many mental health, and other professionals – most of whom work to assist at-risk, disadvantaged, abused and/or homeless teens and pregnant teen girls – the gathering was to familiarize everyone with each other’s services and promote productive networking. Among the many organizations present: The Valley Trauma Center; the Betty Ferguson Foundation; Renewed Families; SCV Pregnancy Center; College of the Canyons; Hart School District; and the Department of Child and Family Services.
The event also featured City Councilman Cameron Smyth, who spoke on the importance of helping teens, and the numerous local activities and programs that strive to promote a better, safer quality of life.
“I spoke to this group a few years ago and since then my perspective has changed incredibly – I became the parent,” Smyth said. “Having a child really changes the way you look at the world.”
So often people take things for granted in life and, before his son came along, Smyth said he was “no different.”
“But that was before (my wife and) I had our baby,” he said. “He is so happy and healthy, but my heart breaks for families whose children do not have these blessings. Just the fact that he can recognize me, that he has 10 toes and he can play with me – these are tremendous assets.”
To get a better start in life, all children need to receive the right tools to make the right choices, Smyth said.
As a boy growing up in Newhall, Smyth was given many learning tools and examples by his parents, he said.
Both worked in local education – his mother Sue was a teacher and his father Clyde was superintendent of the Hart School District. Not only were they present at home, they had a direct line on him in school, too.
“I didn’t always like that as a kid, but I now understand how important it is,” the new father said. “I was fortunate. My parents were able to be there for me for everything I did.”
Many children do not have parents to come home to after school because of the high cost of living, and so many must work long hours, some even outside the SCV. Such independence can be a recipe for disaster for kids.
“Most crime (committed by youth) happens between 3 and 5 p.m. when kids are home alone and they don’t have parental guidance,” Smyth said. “Kids need positive experiences and somewhere to go after school.”
Smyth gave a lengthy update on some of the city and local organization-sponsored activities that help provide youth with worthwhile things to do. The list included everything from after-school programs, and drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention to gang prevention.
On the community’s significant expenditures for its many helpful programs and services, Smyth said, “I would rather see us spend on prevention than on building new jails.”
Kim Schafer, CFC staff therapist, praised Smyth for his concern over causes that affect children and families.
“He was a kid here, he was a teen here,” Schafer said of Smyth. “He wants to be involved in what’s happening with teens and resources in this community and find what works.”
To contact the Child and Family Center call 259-9439. You may visit the center online at www.childfamilycenter.org