Updated: Mar 9, 2019

August 6, 2018

Story and photos by Veronica Perry

Decade after decade, the Sacramento Children’s Home has been a beacon of hope and inspiration in our community. Their main building that you see from the street holds a historical designation, but was recently carefully renovated. Spanning over 16 acres, their campus is dedicated to providing a safe space for the most vulnerable in our community.

For over 150 years, this non-profit has done everything in its power to support and serve as a resource to children and their families. Their main objective is to optimize the potential and well-being of children by providing a safe space, filled with caring individuals and a chance to heal from trauma. The Sacramento Children’s Home serves over 7,000 children each year and houses 30 children at any given time.

The Sacramento Spotlight was afforded the opportunity to speak with Nick Houser, the Marketing and Communications Manager at the Sacramento Children’s Home. He has over a decade of experience in writing and marketing and has spent a considerable amount of time working in after school programs with school age children. Having worked at the Children’s Home for a year now, he says, “When I first started I spent an intensive month of learning and going into the programs so that I was able to properly market them.”

Houser goes on to say, “I run all of the social media where I promote awareness of programs and support of our programs through these platforms.” He says, his goal is “to provide information and resources to the public so that the people who would most benefit from the Sacramento Children’s Home programs actually know about them.”

In this interview, we were also joined by the Director of Philanthropy, Todd Koolakian. He has been featured in the Sacramento Business Journal for top 40 under 40 and holds an integral role in the success of this non-profit.

With a background as a fundraising consultant, Koolakian is perfect in the role of Director of Philanthropy. He has worked in this role since 2014. What drew him to the Sacramento Children’s Home was their mission. He says “they truly open doors to the future by maximizing the potential of families.” Koolakian has always had a passion for elevating the world around him by raising funds for churches, schools, non-profits and now, the Sacramento Children’s Home.

“I think that it’s truly important to build the strength of our overall community, and we do that by serving the most vulnerable in our community. The most vulnerable are kids. The single greatest thing we can do as a community is to take care of our most vulnerable.”

Koolakian goes on to say that “human services is the most important thing we can invest money into because if we can’t support those in our immediate community that truly need our help, then who and what are we actually supporting?”  

The Sacramento Children’s home has two primary objectives: To build strong families and to keep children safe. “I believe the reason our organization, in particular, is so important is due to the comprehensiveness of our services.” Koolakian elaborates.

With a history of residential care and roots as an orphanage, the Sacramento Children's Home has evolved into Sacramento county’s most comprehensive child and family service agency. Providing the community with a breadth of resources, this agency takes early action through support and prevention efforts based on various triggers that might lead to abuse or neglect.

From providing respite to a single mother who might be going through a crisis or offering housing to a foster youth that could not be placed elsewhere, the Sacramento Children’s Home is here to help. The staff at the Children’s Home have a depth of experience and a genuine concern for the well-being of the Sacramento community.

Koolakian explains, “Sacramento has hundreds of non-profits, all of them doing really great work in the community. We have been around for 151 years, so we are not new to doing what we do and over the years we have really honed in on our service to ensure that it is provided with the utmost expertise and with a commitment to quality that is maybe not existing within the newer non-profits.” 

Provided completely free of charge, the programs offered by the Sacramento Children’s home are open to anybody in the community seeking refuge or support. The children they serve are often referred through either the county, word of mouth, or even doctors, clinics and schools. Koolakian goes into detail about their programs, “The Sacramento Children’s home provides eight programs across six locations. Our eight programs concentrate on child abuse prevention, early intervention and mental health treatment. Our eight programs are very diverse in what they offer.’’

The Sacramento Children’s Home provides a variety of dynamic resources available for the youth in our community. Their residential program, which offers housing and treatments to abused or neglected males ages six to sixteen is highly impactful. They have cottages available for boys and each one houses a different age group.

“We have a 30-bed residential facility, where we house kids that have been placed into foster care, that have otherwise been unsuccessful in previous placements. We tend to house some of the highest need kids in the community. Children who have been abused or traumatized in some way in their childhood, that might now have behavioral issues or mental health issues as a result of childhood trauma,” Koolakian says.

They offer a unique program called eVIBE (Early Violence Intervention Begins with Education) that helps to develop safer families. Additionally, they provide crisis nursery centers, after school education, counseling and resources for families.

Most notably, this non-profit has strategically placed family resource centers in areas that the county has deemed the most at risk for child abuse. These at-risk areas are Meadowview, Valley High, and North Sacramento. In these areas, the Sacramento Children’s Home provides a myriad of services including events, after school programs for kids, support groups, parenting classes and lego clubs for kids.

“We have three family resource centers that are deliberately located in areas of Sacramento that have been identified as being high for incidences of abuse and neglect. These programs are actively targeting at-risk populations and they are providing resources to reduce the incidences of abuse and neglect. So, examples of what we do in our family resource centers are parenting classes. We offer these classes to families who lack resources and might not have the ability to pay for counseling services or daycare.”

Qualified representatives of the Sacramento Children’s Home will also go into the homes of at-risk families and identify potential triggers and risks for abuse and neglect. “So we will actually go in and view the family in their own environment. By doing this, representatives have the ability to recommend a change in behavior to encourage parents to become better and more productive,” according to Koolakian.

Some techniques they suggests to parents that encourage early childhood development are actions like talking, reading and singing with their children. The staff at the Sacramento Children’s home are driven by a strong desire to build stronger families in Sacramento with an intention of strengthening our community.

They have purposefully designed programs, like their crisis nursery center, to keep kids safe while their parents work through something personal going on in their lives.

Koolakian gives us an example of what this means: “ A single parent that might be in a rough spot in their life (homeless or on the verge of homelessness) may be out of work or facing some sort of crisis and they are stressed out. They don’t have a support structure because maybe they come from a background or area that is underserved, and they just don’t have the necessary support. These individuals are much more likely to abuse, neglect or in some way traumatize their child. Our crisis nursery for example, is a way that our program would serve that parent. When they are facing a crisis, we can take their child anywhere from a few hours up to 30 days while they deal with their crisis. This way they can deal with the triggers and crisis in their life, while the child is safely in our care, and as a result, they might not be driven to abuse, neglect or traumatize their child.”

The Sacramento Children’s Home also places a strong emphasis on mental health. As Houser explains, “On the campus, there is a counseling center which provides mental health services for kids aged two to twenty-one. Sessions are facilitated by a professional psychologist and we have a building dedicated to education that helps to keep kids up to speed on their school work. We truly are the most comprehensive non-profit in the area.”

Koolakian adds, “We have a robust mental health program in the Children’s Home. Our counseling center is currently serving nearly 300 children and their families. So we have a heavy caseload for our therapists.” The on-site therapist deals with a spectrum of cases from behavioral issues to actual mental health diagnoses like depression or anxiety. He emphasized that nobody is turned away from these programs.

As we concluded our interview, Koolakian touched on what he loves most about living in Sacramento,

“I’ve lived in Sacramento since 2011 and I’m not originally from here. I’ve seen, in the last seven years, how much Sacramento has grown as a community. It’s grown not only in what non profit’s are able to provide to the community but also in creating areas of greater resources and entertainment. Sacramento feels like a big city with a tight knit community. We do a better job of serving the most vulnerable than bigger cities like San Francisco or LA because it's easier for us to address problems and solve those problems as a unified force. That does not mean that the community is without challenges. But, people truly care for one another here and when there are challenges, people band together and collaborate for the greater good.”

The Sacramento Children’s home is run by two things: compassionate, caring employees and their mission to create stronger families in our community by breaking cycles of abuse and neglect. It is clear that this non-profit is determined to serve as a strong support system to the most vulnerable in out city. Their comprehensive programs, passionate personnel and reliable resources are a just few reasons why this local organization makes a big impact, proving dedication to uplifting our community members can make a difference in our hometown.

Click here to find out more about the Sacramento Children's Home's comprehensive programs and services.