Every Child Thrives
Sure, CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) was the first nonprofit in the country to dive head-first into child maltreatment prevention. And yes, the organization – which provides a wide array of direct services to treat and prevent child abuse – just turned 50.
But CALM’s CEO Alana Walczak doesn’t want to talk about the past. “I want to talk about the story of our next fifty years,” Walczak says.
Her vision is big. Building off its research-driven clinical programs and widespread trust among partners across the spectrum of agencies that touch the lives of families and children, CALM is leading a countywide strategy to end childhood trauma.
“The most important relationship in the world is between a parent or caregiver and a child,” Walczak says. “If we can keep that most precious relationship whole, we can change lives.”
Childhood trauma has become a regular part of the vernacular at the highest levels of government and social change efforts. Here in California, the state’s first ever Surgeon General, Nadine Burke Harris, MD is on a crusade to root out childhood trauma. Armed with irrefutable science that shows adverse childhood experiences – abuse, neglect, domestic violence, parental incarceration, divorce – lead to a wide array of dire health outcomes, leaders like Burke Harris and Walczak are clear-eyed about the urgent need to stop childhood trauma in its tracks.
“It is significantly cheaper to support families earlier,” Walczak says. To that end, CALM does the work even if the government doesn’t fund it. For example, the agency has counselors embedded in preschools and pediatric departments to intervene at the earliest signs of trauma. “That’s the wave of the future,” Walczak says. “We are not going to wait until Kindergarten to find out which kids need our help.”
Santa Barbara’s size poses an exciting prospect for Walczak, the team at CALM, and their 75 partner agencies spread across the county. It may just be possible to live up to CALM’s vision of building resilient communities empowered to prevent childhood trauma and heal children and families.
Roughly 5,500 babies are born in Santa Barbara County every year. Through direct services and trauma training programs across the pediatric health and education systems, CALM is building a web of support for all children and families. “If we do this right,” Walczak says, “we can build a robust continuum of care supporting children from birth with the support of an engaged pediatrician all the way through school with engaged teachers, parents and school administrators. That would be a game changer.”
For 50 years, CALM has been on the cutting edge of childhood trauma treatment and prevention. CALM has led the nonprofit community in adopting evidence-based practices in our treatment and prevention models and using assessment and data to evaluate our effectiveness and improve our work.
CALM staff and dedicated volunteers share a common vision of supporting every family in our community so that every child thrives.
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Building a Thriving Community
“We care about CALM because we love our community. Childhood trauma affects us all given the long-term effects on its victims. We all bear the cost of mental and physical health care supports that continue throughout the lives of those who have suffered trauma. A safe, thriving, healthy community benefits us all.”
One Resilient Family
In 2019 and 2020, one of CALM’s male therapists provided weekly therapy to a boy with episodic, intense mood swings. Within months the boy’s mother “witnessed his healing and emergence of self from a dark and confused place.”
“It is difficult to imagine what this last year would have been like without the support of CALM and my son’s therapist,” she says. “When I think of his impact on our lives, I think of a calm and steady presence during a daunting time. I think of a positive, guiding, and reliable male figure dedicated to supporting a young man, and family in need. Our family is stronger, more capable, and more resilient because of his efforts. We are better equipped for these challenging times. This is precious, timely and rare, and I could not be more grateful.”
Board of Trustees
Liam Murphy, Board Chair
Caroline Powers, Vice Chair
Andrew Fitzgerald, Treasurer
Bridget O. Foreman, CPA, Secretary
Alex Craigie, Esq
Susan Miles Gulbransen
Saida Hamdani, MD
Anna Kokotovic, Honorary Trustee
Cherylynn Lee, PhD
Karen O. Merrill, Auxiliary Liaison
Ismael Paredes Ulloa