One hundred and fifteen years ago today…
…optometrist and B-nei B’rith president Seigfried Marshutz challenged his fellow Jewish community leaders to help orphaned children living on the streets of Los Angeles. “What then,” he demanded, “shall become of these little ones?” The response was the creation of the Jewish Orphans Home of Southern California, which quickly became known as one of the finest residential programs in the country. Obviously, we’ve changed a bit since then; today we serve the changing needs of all children and families in our community by offering high-quality treatment programs for children with significant emotional, social, learning and developmental disabilities. We’ve impacted more than a million children and families since we opened. How did we get here? Well…
- …we were the first agency in Southern California to establish a cottage-style orphanage, a revolutionary model of congregate care that provided a healthier, more family-like environment than previous models.
- Seeing the danger facing Jewish children in Nazi Germany, we opened our doors to more than 100 children who managed to escape t the US. Many of those children lost their families during the Holocaust, and we took care of them until permanent homes could be found.
- Following World War II, we identified the increasing mental health challenges children were experiencing and changed the mission of the organization: no longer only a Jewish orphanage, we became a mental health agency for ALL children.
- We opened our adoptions program in 1950 and have been instrumental in building about 100 families a year since then. Today, we offer domestic, international, foster-to-adopt and post-adoption services and supervise foster care homes across Los Angeles County. We were a pioneer in offering open adoptions as well as adoptions for same-sex couples.
- We expanded our range of services and expertise via a series of mergers with several other agencies. These mergers allowed us to offer cutting edge care in the form of psychodynamic therapy, psychoeducational diagnostic testing, speech and occupational therapy, childcare, prevention and early intervention, and Early Head Start.
- For our children experiencing the most severe behavioral and mental health challenges, in 2000 we built one of only two Special Care Facilities in California. These youth have been subjected to complex trauma, and require intensive, trauma-based care to help them recover.
- We were the first agency in Los Angeles (in partnership with Hathaway-Sycamores) to offer Wraparound services, a system of care that emphasizes family strengths to help families achieve positive goals and well-being. Our Wraparound Program currently serves 155 families per year and operates a mobile crisis outreach team and an advocacy program for children who have been victims of human trafficking.
- Recognizing the value of arts programming in the treatment of mental health as well as in academic achievement, we established our Art Enrichment Program in 2006. Limited initially to a few basic performing arts classes, the program quickly expanded to include music, dance, and fine arts. To house this cutting edge program, we opened our new, 299-seat Glorya Kaufman Performing Arts Center in 2022.
- Responding to the overwhelming numbers of unaccompanied refugee children seeking safety in our country, we recently established a shelter home for these youth, providing a safe home for them until suitable homes can be found for them within the US. With this program we came full circle, once again providing a home for children who had none.
Whew! That’s a lot! But through all of these changes over all of those years, one thing has remained constant at Vista Del Mar: the commitment by our Board of Directors and staff in helping the most vulnerable people in the Greater Los Angeles Area in their time of greatest need. In that way, Vista Del Mar hasn’t changed at all.
We are so grateful to have been part of your community for the past 115 years!