Responding to community need is what Kinship Center does best, and a new Kinship Center Children’s Clinic in North Salinas is bringing professional help and resources to meet a profound need of many local families.

Open for Service:  Opened last month at 984 Lupin Drive, the fully-staffed mental health clinic will target its professional services in this first year to some 350 families in North and East Salinas, Seaside and elsewhere whose children are impacted as families struggle with community and domestic violence, widespread substance abuse, financial hardship, the isolation of language and culture, lack of family support, and other stresses. Many are already in crisis, says Laura Ornelas, LCSW, who directs Kinship Center’s extensive mental health programs for children and families in the Central Coast region.

“Our goal is to prevent children from landing in foster care, so our services in this facility will be focused on young children (ages 0-5) and on families already showing risk factors. This is the only resource of its kind in the region, and we’ve chosen the location on Lupin Drive to be most accessible to these families.”

Community Supported: A collaboration with First Five Monterey, the Mental Health Services Act, and Monterey County Behavioral Health Department, the clinic will be largely focused on prevention, offering therapeutic playgroups, a parenting series and parent dialogue groups, on-site and in-home therapy, and expert consultation to preschools. Shown above, Kinship Center licensed therapists will bring special expertise in child development to an array of programs designed to build family functioning and success.

Building for Success: Parents experiencing critical life stressors are generally unable to focus on children’s needs, explains Ornelas, and the clinic will help them learn to understand children’s signals, build parenting skills, and experience empowerment and success. “We’ve transformed this seven-room suite into a child-centered wonderland that feels like it really belongs to the children and families,” says Ornelas. “We wanted all the rooms and therapists’ offices to feel more like a preschool exploration zone than a clinic. The playroom has bright, colorful décor and toys (available to check out) specially chosen to help parents engage effectively with their child. Crystals dancing in the light of the windows stimulate children’s imaginations and creativity, something typically lacking in homes overshadowed by crisis.”

Clinic staff members are looking for funding to create an outdoor garden space, says Ornelas. “Young children experience life through their senses, so we look forward to having a ‘sensory’ garden where they can walk barefoot through stones and water, and play freely with art, plants and wood. Again, children living in neighborhoods with high community violence don’t often have the chance to develop from outdoor exploration.”

Changing Lives: The goal of Kinship Center’s new clinic? “To create long lasting change for the families and neighborhoods we are able to touch by our services,” says Ornelas. “This feels very big.”


For more information about Kinship Center’s mental health services for children and families, click here.

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