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EAST LOS ANGELES : Center Offers Oasis to Troubled Parents

June 13, 1993|MARY ANNE PEREZ

Martha Saavedra thought her husband was going to kill her. The abusive relationship had gone on for more than 10 years and produced three children, making the 31-year-old Saavedra believe it would never end.

But a social worker visited her East Los Angeles home about a year ago and referred her to the Family Services Center of the Bienvenidos Children's Center. The family center, which recently doubled its client load to 75 families per year thanks to a move to 5233 E. Beverly Blvd., helped Saavedra through a difficult divorce and the start of a new life.

"I've learned how to treat my children, how to help them get over their father's abuse and to make me a better mother," said the soft-spoken Saavedra, who has gone through the center's classes and now is a volunteer there.

Many of those seeking help are on the brink of having their children placed in foster care until they work out problems of abuse and neglect. Others are trying to pull their families together after recovering from drug abuse or working out other problems.

Support workers deal with three or four families at a time, far fewer than county social workers who manage up to 50 concurrent cases, said program director Lorraine Lima. They visit the homes, find out the primary problems and help the families through them.

The family may need help getting food and clothes or navigating government bureaucracies to receive Social Security or welfare benefits. After basic needs are addressed, parents are encouraged to visit the center to take a break from child care, use the phone, wash clothes or attend classes. The center includes a playroom with books and stuffed toys where children are supervised while parents take care of other matters.

Parents also learn to interact with their children and appreciate different stages of development.

"We see some real growth," said case manager Rosemarie Mollinedo. "We work with families that are high-risk. This is their last chance. The children are still in the home."

Established in 1986, Bienvenidos Children's Center of Altadena runs an emergency nursery in West Covina, a foster family agency serving Los Angeles County and the Family Services Center in East Los Angeles.

The Family Services Center was established five years ago and moved to its present location in February with the help of a three-year, $420,000 federal Abandoned Infant Assistance grant. Information: (213) 728-9577.

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