Like many child abuse and domestic violence prevention organizations, Child Abuse Listening Mediation (CALM) saw a sudden drop in calls at the very start of the pandemic. But the abuse that was being reported was worse.
“Our referrals went down, but acuity was higher,” CALM North County Regional Manager Yvonne Nelson said. “Of the calls that we got, people were more desperate. The crimes were more horrific.”
CALM, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in Santa Barbara County, has a mission to prevent childhood trauma, heal children and families, and build resilient communities in the county.
“We do that by providing accessible, culturally responsive, and evidenced-based services,” Nelson said.
Prior to the pandemic, a lot of referrals to CALM came from mandatory reporters, such as teachers or pediatricians, who see kids on a regular basis. Cases referred to the childhood trauma prevention organization, which serves all of Santa Barbara County, are typically “all along the continuum” in terms of severity, Nelson said. But when the world went dark, “people were reaching out when they could no longer take it anymore,” she continued. “The highest need was emotional support, behavioral issues, and parenting support.”
CALM quickly pivoted, moving all of its services to telehealth in March 2020. Now more than a year later, the organization is finally seeing things return to normal, with in-person services resuming.
CALM has four main categories of service delivery. The Great Beginnings department focuses on early childhood prevention and intervention, where trained practitioners help parents form healthy attachments with their children.
The Childhood Trauma Treatment program focuses on helping children recover after being exposed to trauma or adverse experiences through counseling.
The Whatever It Takes initiative delivers intense family services to those who have the highest need, such as families involved with the child welfare system. These services also work preventatively with families that child welfare is concerned about but aren’t yet in the welfare system.
Finally, CALM’s Community Strengthening Collaborations program addresses the root of the problem, creating the social change that’s needed to reduce childhood trauma on a larger, community-wide scale.
In North County, the organization’s community-based services run the gamut. Nelson said CALM is gearing up to provide mental health consultations in Lompoc schools next school year, and it also provides services at the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club. CALM also partners with Cottage Health and Family Service Agency to provide adverse childhood experience screenings at medical clinics in Lompoc, and has plans to expand to Santa Maria in the near future. CALM partners with the county District Attorney’s Office to conduct forensic interviews for any child under 13 who has been a victim of a crime or has witnessed a crime, Nelson added.
By Aug. 15, CALM will be fully back to in-person appointments, though the virtual infrastructure is here to stay for those who need it.
“Zoom has provided us with an incredible amount of flexibility,” Nelson said. “We’re not going to abandon Zoom because it’s helpful.
“That said, CALM sees itself as an in-person agency. People benefit from in-person.”
And though things look more “normal” now, Nelson said that the pandemic’s toll on mental health will continue to affect the work CALM does moving forward, as COVID-related trauma comes to the surface.
“CALM is going to continue to pivot and respond to the needs of the community,” she said. “Our emphasis right now is prevention: Responding before the need becomes acute.”
• The Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department and People for Leisure and Youth (PLAY) Inc. announced that Concerts in the Park are back this summer. “The first concert, featuring the rhythmic tunes of the Brass Factory, will be held on Sunday, July 18, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Rotary Centennial Park, located at 2625 South College Drive,” according to the city. “The Brass Factory is a nine-piece band featuring a three-piece horn section, four-piece rhythm section, and a male and female vocalist. The band plays a variety of music with carefully selected songs in classic rock, Motown, soul, dance, R&B, and jazz.” For the full summer lineup, head to cityofsantamaria.org.
• Youth looking for a safe and fun place to hang out this summer break can head to the Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center, which the city of Santa Maria announced has reopened its doors. The youth center will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until Aug. 11. “Teens can drop in anytime during the hours of operation to play basketball, play a game of pool or to participate in various other activities,” according to the city. “Music lessons will be offered on Mondays and Wednesdays in the multi-media room. The fitness room and the computer lab will be open to teens from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.” Membership is free, but participants must be a youth center member. The center is open for anyone who has completed sixth grade up to high school, and it’s located at 600 South McClelland St.
Staff Writer Malea Martin wrote this week’s Spotlight. Send story ideas to [email protected].