TULARE, Calif. — Cecelia Sabado, an illegal alien from Mexico, said she had no choice but to endure the violent wrath of her alcoholic husband in their cramped trailer in rural Tulare County.
"I felt very alone and was very afraid," said Sabado, who requested that her real name not be used for fear of deportation to Mexico.
Tulare County Child Protective Services learned that Sabado, her three girls and ailing boy were being beaten and normally would have taken the children from the home.
But in this case, therapists with the Visalia-based Turning Point program were called to help counsel the family in an attempt to make the home safe for the children once again.
"Generally, most parents love their children and care for them, even if they abuse them. They are only too willing to correct the situation," said Bernice Kellogg, a therapist with the program also known as Family Builders.
The organization obtained a restraining order that forced the husband out of the home.
"Often it's just ignorance. It's a pattern. They think that's the way to do it," Kellogg added.
Sabado attests to the program's success.
"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have my son with me right now," she said, cradling her 14-month-old boy.
"Apart from all that they have taught me to gain more responsibility, I feel strong because someone is standing behind me and praising me for what I'm doing on my own," she said.
Family Builders is one of eight pilot programs launched last year as part of a state survey to gauge the effectiveness of intensive child abuse counseling, said Tim Inouye, project chairman and therapist.
Three licensed therapists work closely with families in the Visalia-based project. Caseloads are small, with a therapist seeing no more than two families at a time, Inouye said.
"The state Legislature is interested to see if services provided in this manner will be cost-effective and if it really does improve the situations with the families," Inouye said.
Only the toughest cases--parents who could lose their children to foster homes--are referred to Family Builders. Inouye estimated that 79% of families receiving counseling from Family Builders are able to keep their children.
"When we first started out, our success rate wasn't very good," he admitted. "The first couple of families we worked with intensively, their children were removed because the problems came back, and it was determined the kids would be in danger if left in the home."
Self-sufficiency, parenting skills, family unity and ability to manage family stress are taught to both mother and sometimes the father in the workshops, Inouye said.
Inouye persuaded Soccoro Grant, 31, to force her boyfriend out of the household after he had molested her 5-year-old daughter. At the time, the Tulare resident was suffering from a mysterious sickness that made her chronically dizzy during pregnancy.
Inouye visited Grant daily during her six-week-long sickness, helping tend to the children, teaching her about setting a household budget and good nutrition. Inouye reminded her to follow doctor's orders and bring her daughter to therapy at the county's sexual abuse program.