Mom and Child
from La Posada outside
Long Beach Aquarium

Teen Parenting Classes That Work
The Center cosponsors 10 week, intensive parenting courses to teen mothers at La Posada, a transitional housing project in Los Angeles.   This program has provided much-needed parent education in an intimate, non-threatening group setting where young mothers can express their concerns freely.  The sessions, led by parent educator, Dr. Marta Alquijay, focus on both general parenting issues and those specific to teen parents and include plenty of time for open discussions.

Standard parenting classes focus on parents who juggle two worlds, work and parenting. Young single mothers juggle three:  work, family and their own late-adolescent issues. We talk about issues that are particular to their circumstances.  Many have witnessed or been subjected to domestic or sexual abuse. Most of our moms are no longer with the father of their babies.  They are either in a new relationship or looking for one.  We discuss how to recognize an unhealthy relationship.

We are seeking funding to produce a manual and accompanying video that will allow us to take our ten-year program and expand its influence to a wider audience.  With funding, we will distribute our manual and video to California community groups, church groups, schools and other organizations who work with teen mothers. In the future we plan to expand to other states.

While it isn't possible to offer everyone our direct services, taught by a clinical psychologist who is experienced with counseling adolescent parents, this video and manual will give other organizations the tools to accomplish what we have.  The video will show the atmosphere, the flow and spontaneity of the classes.  The manual will provide detailed information for each session plus copies of all handouts used during class.

Healing Through Play
This program reaches out to families in the Pico Union/Westlake neighborhoods, addressing the dire need for a mental health program for children in downtown L.A. This is a community that suffers greatly from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) -- not just adults, who came here from poor cities and villages, often war-torn. Their fears affect the entire family, even the youngest children. And this is compounded by current living situations: high crime and gang neighborhoods, overcrowding in small apartments. Even the separation and reunification of children and their parents that is often part of the move to this country can cause anxiety, depression and PTSD. Children with untreated PTSD lose their childhood. We stress how children learn through play as well as heal through play.


Our project is located at an apartment complex La Villa Mariposa, owned by NEW (New Economics for Women), where we are drawing on their position of trust in the community. To be effective, a program must be culturally relevant and sensitive to the community. Our therapists are not only bilingual, they are thoroughly versed in the recent immigrant Latino culture. The toys we use in the sessions (dolls, for example) are culturally appropriate. We cite “Dichos” (familiar sayings) in discussions with parents and use stories from the family’s country of origin.

The California Endowment is a generous funder to this five-year project, Additional funding has come from the Robert Ellis Simon Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, Ralph Parsons Foundation and First5 LA.

Comadres & Compadres:  Neighbors Helping Neighbors in a Time of Catastrophe
Our newest program focuses on proving crisis intervention during a catastrophe in LA, whether it be an earthquake or terrorist attack. We will train civic-minded volunteers in four large apartment complexes near Downtown Los Angeles, where we already have an existing mental health program (see Healing through Play below). Our volunteers will be trained by a bilingual psychologist to provide crisis intervention, support and comfort during and after a catastrophe. We believe that one of the most important lessons from Hurricane Katrina is that first responders and others who can and are expected to provide aid may not be willing to leave their own families during the extreme phase of a catastrophe. People an affected area will be on their own during the worst stage. Because they live on site, our volunteers will not have to leave their families to provide help to others.


Kanjobal Parenting Education Project
The Kanjobal are an indigenous people, Maya, from Guatemala. An estimated 10-15,000 Kanjobal live in L.A. Because they are from Guatemala, there is an erroneous assumption that they speak Spanish. Many do not. This has created a situation of extensive neglect and isolation and has prevented them from receiving many health and social services.

With the guidance of parent educator Dr. Marta Alquijay, we trained five Kanjobal speakers to lead 10-week parenting class in the community. The classes covered topics such as: discipline, child development, positive reinforcement, advocating for your child, understanding acculturation of children, countering child abuse and neglect, avoiding gang involvement. There were also discussions of child protection laws. Kanjobal parents (as well as parents from other cultures) bring with them to this country their traditional ways of childrearing which can be in conflict with our regulations. For example, a Kanjobal parent may continue the practice of her village of leaving children home alone. The mother may not know that is against the law here until she is reported to authorities for neglect.

This program will serve as a model for other parenting classes, reaching other isolated communities in Los Angeles, such as the Zapotec and Mixtec of Southern Mexico and the Quiche and Mam of Guatemala.

Hopscotch City
Our first step in developing our Festival of Children's Play is Hopscotch City -- a chance to learn about hopscotch games from all over the world. The Roman gladiators played it to develop strength and agility. Every country has its own variation -- France’s is shaped like a snail, Britain’s looks like a dart board. The Japanese version is shaped like a snake.

We’ve brought Hopscotch City to the Theater Festival for Youth at USC and to the L.A. Times Festival of Health and Fitness, also on the USC campus. We have trained fifth through seventh graders as our “explainers” -- they teach the games to other children. We continue to explore ways to bring creative play back into childhood.

We hope that Hopscotch City will lead to a citywide Festival of Children’s play were all sorts of traditional games (jacks, marbles, rhymes, jump rope, etc.) will be celebrated.

Lo Que Mama y Papa Deberian Saber  (What Mom and Dad Should Know)
This 71-minute video, made in collaboration with Oscar Romero Clinic, was created to reach parents who would not be likely to participate in formal parenting classes and so was designed to be shown in clinic waiting rooms reaching a "captive audience."  The video, made directly in Spanish, consists of six vignettes of everyday family issues, followed by discussions with parents about constructive ways to handle those situations.  It has been distributed to 52 community clinics in LA County as well as to 300 LAUSD Parent Centers, 275 Early Head Start programs in over 40 states, 350 Head Start Migrant Worker Programs in over 20 states, 154 Head Start Programs in 7 states and Planned Parenthood's Promotoras Program in Los Angeles.

Deserving Another Chance: Teen Parents, Their Children and Play  
This 30-minute video focuses on the work of Ruth Beaglehole and her teen parent program at Los Angeles Unified School Districts LA Tech Center. Her exemplary program encourages play and open communication between parent and child and helps young parents create more a stable, less violent family life. 

Our video has been shown National Conference Zero to three and is distributed nationally through Child Development Media.


Play to Learn/Learn to Play
In a three year period, The Center brought over 1700 teen families from 18 local high schools to the Los Angeles Children's Museum for a morning devoted to play and learning about its importance in children's lives.  These visits were made on days the museum was closed to the public so that the families could have the place and the staff all to themselves.  All families received a free yearlong family membership so that the could return on their own as many times as they wished.

Enrichment Program for Teen Families
This program was created to remedy the isolated lives that many teen families lead.   We have developed a series of family outings designed to explore the diverse riches of Los Angeles life, giving teen moms  the opportunity to learn about what is available for families and that it is available to them.   Developing this sense of entitlement to the city's cultural and recreational offerings is essential to feeling a part of the community and to creating a strong family life.  Teen families have been to the LA Zoo, UCLA, Nature Festival in Temescal Canyon, nature walks in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Getty Center, Santa Monica Pier, LACMA, children's theater, Cabrillo Aquarium and the beach

Enrichment Program for Families-At Risk
This program evolved from The Center's Enrichment Program for Teen Families and stems from the same point of view: that families-at-risk need help in becoming aware and familiar with the many cultural and recreational possibilities Los Angeles has to offer. In collaboration with California Hospital's Family Preservation Unit, and working with families that have received intensive counseling there, we have introduced families to the Getty Center, UCLA, Nature Festival in Temescal Canyon, a tide pool walk, Cabrillo Aquarium and the LA Zoo.

Oral Histories: Grandparents Remember Childhood Play
We believe strongly that it is important to preserve memories of childhood play, encourage intergenerational conversations and keep the details of childhood alive. Toward these ends, we have recorded recollections of grandparents, about play in a simpler time, at the Children’s Literature Department of the LA Public Library?s Central Library. Folklorist Judith Haut and three other folklorists have interviewed dozens of grandparents and we will continue to compile this important archive. Our ultimate goal is to produce a book of excerpts of these oral histories.






The Center for Childhood | 1900 Avenue of the Stars, 7th Floor, Los Angeles CA 90067 | info@centerforchildhood.org