VIP Goes Back to School
I met him Tuesday afternoon when he came by my office with his therapist who wanted to pick up some grocery cards for his family. He and his sister had quietly shared that all they had been eating all week was pancakes. Mom admitted that they were out of money and she was trying to make the few staples she had left in the cupboard last as long as she could. Luckily, a recent gift from VIP supporter and acclaimed author Cornelia Funke meant we were able to help his family buy food for the week. 

We let him sign his name when they came to pick up the cards. The shy seven year old seemed to know how important this was so he took his time, pausing between each perfectly formed letter to get it just right. When he was done I handed the cards and the paperwork to his therapist to take to his mom. He gave me a very small but sincere smile as they left.

The next day was our Back to School Giveaway! Hundreds of children and parents came to pick out new backpacks stuffed with everything from scientific calculators for the teens to crayons for the kindergartners. I had been outside checking kids in for over an hour and then there he was at the front of the line. With the crowd and the excitement I almost didn't recognize him, but he lingered  just long enough staring at me out of the corner of his eye for me to make the connection and wish him luck in his quest for a bag. He nodded with purpose and made his way to the table of supplies for elementary school schildren.

When he was leaving he walked past me very slowly, looking up at me, twisting around to show me what he had picked out. I congratulated him and complimented him on his very cool choice, and that's when I finally got it - the big, ear-to-ear, two front teeth missing smile with laughing eyes and a sense of pride.back to school

The Back to School Giveaway on September 2, 2009, produced a lot of smiling faces, a lot of grateful parents, a lot of excited kids. Over 175, actually. That is how many backpacks we gave away. That is how many children – VIP clients, victims of abuse and neglect – you helped prepare for a year of hard work discovering the joys of learning. Some of them took their bags to the Education Center and proceeded to share with the other kids and happily trade green folders for yellow rulers. Others went into to see their therapist and spread out all their new treasures and explained what they could accomplish with each new tool. Every one of them spent the whole afternoon wearing their new backpacks with joy.

Thank you to everyone who purchased backpacks; rallied their neighbors, friends and family to hold drives to collect supplies; volunteered that day here at VIP; and gave their time and resources to send VIP kids back to school in style.

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On Wednesday November 17, 2004, the newest program addition to VIP, the Community-Based Assessment and Treatment Center (CATC) had an open house for public health nurses and social workers from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) offices throughout Los Angeles. Over 100 DCFS representatives attended the event, where tours were given of the clinic.

The attendees enjoyed lunch in the adjacent Nike Play Yard and familiarized themselves with the new program.

"I am thrilled to be part of the VIP, and excited to face the challenge of providing continuous, comprehensive medical and mental health care to children in foster care. These children are often medically fragile, and have frequently suffered abuse or neglect. They need strong advocates to ensure that their complicated needs are addressed. I have spent many years as a community pediatrician and bring those years of clinical experience with me to tackle this new challenge."

Dr. Janet Arnold
Medical Director, CATC

Learn more about the Community-Based Assessment and Treatment Center (CATC).

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VIP Launches LA County's First Elder Abuse Forensic Center
The California Department of Social Services estimates that there are 40,000 cases of elder abuse in Los Angeles County each year, but research indicates that this number could be up to five times higher if unreported cases are considered. The reported types of abuse are equally divided among neglect, fiduciary abuse, psychological abuse and physical abuse, according to Los Angeles County's Adult Protective Services (APS).

When VIP partnered with APS and LAC+USC Medical Center more than six years ago to address this urgent need by forming the Adult Protection Team (APT), the goal was to provide wrap-around medical and social services to elderly victims of abuse. Now, with a generous two-year grant of $374,834 from the Archstone Foundation, these services will expand to create the Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensic Center. The Forensic Center will engage multiple county and community-based agencies in an effort to increase prosecution rates against perpetrators, and to increase the capacity and availability of services to elderly victims.

The Forensic Center will allow representatives from agencies such as APS, the District Attorney, City Attorney, Long-Term Care Ombudsman, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and others to come together one day a week and work under the same roof in order to determine the best course of action for cases of elder or dependent adult abuse. The Forensic Center, currently in the planning phase, will be housed in newly renovated space and is expected to be operational in April 2006.

"Elder abuse is a crime without boundaries, crossing all racial, social, class, gender and geographic lines. As the older adult population in California continues to increase, it is anticipated that the rate of elder abuse will also increase," said Joseph F. Prevratil, President and CEO of the Archstone Foundation. "To respond to this growing need, the Archstone Foundation has committed $8 million over five years for the Elder Abuse and Neglect Initiative. The goal of the Initiative is to improve the quality and coordination of elder abuse and neglect services in the State of California."

Under the leadership of APT Medical Director Diana C. Schneider, M.D. and Astrid Heppenstall Heger, M.D., the innovative Forensic Center will be only the second such center in the country, the first being located in Orange County. By 2030, Los Angeles County's elderly population will double from ten to twenty percent of the total population, reaching a total of approximately 2,365,456 persons. The Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensic Center will undoubtedly meet the challenge of ensuring fair treatment to all seniors in the years to come.

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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): The Hidden Disability Conference: January 20, 2006
62% of young foster children are at high risk for serious health problems due to prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol. Research has linked alcohol consumption during pregnancy to long-term healthcare problems. On January 20, VIP hosted a sold-out conference at the First 5 LA office, bringing together professionals and researchers to discuss Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).

Alcohol-exposed newborns are at risk for developmental problems. Ann Streissguth, Ph.D. and Ed Riley, Ph.D. described the brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol as a disability that causes cognitive delays, ADHD, low IQ, poor judgment and/or poor social skills. Jodi Lenocker, RN, MA, discussed the state's Early Start Regional Center as one of the few resources available to children with disabilities.

Mary O'Conner, Ph.D. and Blair Paley, Ph.D. from the UCLA Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Related Disorders Clinic surveyed pregnant women participating in the Women's, Infants, Children (WIC) program, 25% of whom reported using alcohol. However, the actual number of newborns who are at risk for FASD is much higher, as prenatal exposure to alcohol cuts across all races, income brackets, levels of education attained, and age.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office files 30,000 criminal petitions per year against juvenile criminal offenders. One study found that the percent of juvenile offenders who have FASD is 23%. If this is accurate, then at least 6,900 juveniles processed through the Los Angeles County system each year are affected by FASD.

Through the Community-Based Assessment and Treatment Center, VIP has witnessed the need for improved services to children with FASD. In order to address this extensive social and public health concern, VIP intends to establish interventions for pregnant women and early identification and interventions for children who were prenatally exposed to alcohol.

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