Q&A with Childhelp Merv Griffin Village

Situated across 121 acres of beautiful scenery, the Childhelp Merv Griffin Village has been dedicated to the 24-hours-a-day treatment of abused, neglected, and at-risk children of California since 1978. Committed to creating a genuine community environment, the village houses as many as 84 children ranging in age from 6 to 15 years old. The children are referred by various judicial authorities and child welfare offices that rely on Childhelp’s team of mental health professionals to assess each child arriving at the facility and develop an individualized treatment plan.

Kimberly Rogers, who is the Children’s Outreach Coordinator, was kind enough to update us on the latest events happening at the Merv Griffin Village as well as what makes the program unique and beneficial.

Tell us about the Village and the effect it can have on America’s youth

The Childhelp Merv Griffin Village is a place like no other I’ve seen.  Located in an area that was previously considered “the middle of nowhere,” the suburbs have gradually developed nearby, yet even in local venues, people are often surprised to learn that we’re here.  We’re very private, so our annual Open House is well-attended, and many of our guests tear up when they hear all that we do.  The girls and boys in our care range in age from 6 to

The girls and boys in our care range in age from 6 to 14 and most have been through at least 10 different homes before being referred for treatment here.  These are children with an extensive abuse and neglect history, or significant mental health impairment, often as a result of drug or alcohol exposure or as an inherited condition.  These children don’t deserve the hardships they have had to face—no one does—but those hardships have developed into behavioral challenges and emotional scars that need to be addressed for them to thrive and succeed in life.  I always say that it’s a crime that a place such as this needs to

I always say that it’s a crime that a place such as this needs to exist because no child should ever suffer enough to need this sort of intensive treatment, but it’s a miracle that we’re here.  No one on the nightly news is talking about the plight of a six-year-old with such severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that he attacks every adult who gets within a few feet of him.  It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that they really don’t know.  They believe that kids are resilient, and they’re right, but just because children can recover doesn’t mean they don’t need help to heal.

How has it been going so far? Have people been open to your presentations/ your work?

I’ve been working as the Children’s Outreach Coordinator for the Merv Griffin Village for three years.  At first, I was asked to do presentations for our placing county offices, letting them know about the services available for the children on their caseload.  Gradually, I picked up other responsibilities, and I now do outreach for the Foster Family and Adoption Agency in search of Foster Parents, I help with outreach to school districts and SELPA offices for the Non-Public School, and I advocate for the Orange County Group Homes in addition to representing the Village.

I can say wherever I go I am welcomed with open arms.  Both social workers and members of the general public alike praise Childhelp for the work that we do.  It’s an honor to represent such an upstanding company, taking on such a worthy cause, and the reception I find everywhere I go reflects that.

However, as kind as people can be, the hardest part of my job is finding foster families.  Not everyone can qualify, and there are many among us who truly can’t foster because of their health or family situation.  That’s what makes it so important that those who can qualify at least consider it.  I don’t want anyone choosing to foster if they don’t love children, but I need more people to ask themselves not if they could do it, but how they could make it work.  If the answer is, “I can’t,” I would hope that person would look to their friends and family and share the word.

Just about everyone knows someone who can foster, so if there’s no way that you can foster, try to ask around until you find someone who can, because our phone rings all day, every day, looking for homes for children from newborn to twenty years old, and I hate to turn anyone away.  We also have kids from the Village who graduate to a home environment.  The more foster homes I can find, the better, and that’s where being well-received just isn’t enough.  Childhelp is a warrior in this fight against child abuse, and I, too, praise our Founders and our programs to the moon and back, but praise doesn’t give that six-year-old a family, and that’s what I really need.

What drew you to become involved with Childhelp?

I was a stay-at-home mom for years because my oldest son has special needs—he suffers from a significant mental health diagnosis, which made it very difficult to keep him enrolled in an after-school program or other supervised activity that would allow me to work.  As a credentialed elementary school teacher, it was hard to give up the classroom, but between my son and the job market in education at the time, I didn’t have a choice.

I took from home assignments when I could, but it was part-time income at best, and although I was available to volunteer during the school day to stay involved, my involvement was limited.  My husband works for Riverside County, and a position in Public Relations opened up.  I had never considered Public Relations before, but the job description so closely paralleled everything I was doing as a volunteer advocate for education that I decided to apply.  At the time, I had never heard of Childhelp.

I called a friend who happened to work here to ask for a letter of recommendation, and she nearly screamed.  “I didn’t know you were willing to take a job outside of teaching—Childhelp has had an Outreach position available for five months.  Please apply.”  I did, and just over two weeks after the date of my first contact with Childhelp, I sat at this desk for the first time.

This is the first job I’ve ever held that has used every skill in my toolbox, from what I’ve learned as a parent of a special needs child to my work as a teacher, and from my artistic hobbies to writing, to my penchant for the dramatic.  I spend some time working with print materials and some public speaking, I help with Intake when I can because of my first-hand experience with the various medications and diagnoses we see, and I help with the program whenever a big project needs more hands.  I get to do what I do to help children, and that means more to me than anything else.

And my son is older, mostly mainstreamed, stable, and able to walk to and from school with his brother, so I’m free to work outside the home once again.  Working for Childhelp has increased my understanding of my son’s condition even more.  Rather than taking me away from my child, working has allowed me to do even more for him, making this a true win-win for my family.  I may only have three years with Childhelp under my belt so far, but every “lifer” had a first day, and I plan to be one of them.

What makes your program unique in the child abuse prevention landscape?

My position is quite eclectic.  I never have the opportunity to get bored.  While I don’t have many opportunities to work with the children directly, I’m constantly working to make sure our beds are full at the Village and Group Homes, and our Foster Families are plentiful.  I’m spreading the word and trying to collect good people to send back to our Family Development Team.  It’s a hamster wheel that I run in every day, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ve told my sons that I’m professionally friendly—that I get to talk to people and tell them all about the good work we do and how they can help kids with us.  My youngest said, “That’s not a real job.”  I answered him, “You’re right.  It’s a real calling.”

If a group is interested in getting more information, how can they contact you?

If anyone in Southern California would like to invite me to come speak with their group about what we do and how they can get involved, please reach out to me at 951-845-3155 ext 273 or email me at kirogers@childhelp.org.  If anyone is interested in getting more information about fostering, they can either contact me, or reach out to 1-877-70-CHILD (24453) to speak to the Family Development Team at the Foster Family and Adoption Agency directly.

These are our children—the responsibility falls to everyone in society to help care for them—and the more people who take that responsibility seriously the better our future will be for all of us.  People tend to see a difficult situation and say, “Someone should do something about that.”  It’s my job to make sure that everyone I meet knows that they are “Someone.”