A Century of Helping the Most Underserved

By Giving List Staff   |   November 26, 2022
FSA cultivates strong families through case management, parent education, and referrals to community resources.

Marialena, 73, suffered an incredible loss when her husband passed away several years ago. She spoke little English, had little money, no family living nearby, and was increasingly worried about her declining health when she called the intake line for Santa Barbara County’s Family Service Agency. She wanted to know if they could help her secure financial assistance to pay for her medical needs. 

Founded in 1899, Family Service Agency (FSA) is Santa Barbara County’s oldest non-sectarian private social welfare organization and has more than a century of experience helping the region’s most underserved children, families, and seniors. FSA’s mission is to ensure access to food, shelter, and other basic needs as well as provide case management, advocacy, and mental health programs. 

Family Service Agency takes a holistic approach to helping families and individuals, like Mariela, by providing wrap-around services that address both basic needs and mental health.

The agency quickly discovered that Marialena was not eating properly, in part because she experienced acute anxiety every time she went out in public. FSA immediately arranged for home-delivered meals and grocery delivery.

FSA also assisted Marialena in making an appointment for a health screening, and following that, arranged for her to receive counseling to help with her crippling anxiety. 

“What we have seen is a lot of families that have been destabilized due to COVID, with family members losing employment, getting sick, or worse and now we are seeing inflation and rising prices for food and other necessities,” says Lisa Brabo, FSA’s CEO. “We meet with the families and talking through what they are experiencing so we can help them put together an action plan to meet those needs. As we develop a relationship over time, they gain more trust with us, and we learn more about their needs.”

That’s what happened when FSA began working with Laura, a single mom with three children ages 10, 15, and 17. Faced with a sudden eviction from their one-bedroom apartment, the family was referred to the organization’s Family Support Services program (FSS). The program discovers what barriers parents are experiencing and connects them to the resources they need to thrive.

“Our FSS advocate quickly worked with Laura to obtain a hotel for the family for three nights and coordinated with Transition House for them to temporarily enter the family shelter,” Brabo says.

As the FSS advocate continued to work with Laura’s family, she became aware of additional barriers that they needed to work through in order for Laura to retain consistent employment.

“The advocate provided basic needs support for the family including gift cards for food, hygiene supplies, family meals, and school supplies,” Brabo says, adding that the family has also obtained medical insurance, rental assistance, and is on a waitlist for long-term, affordable housing.

Family Service Agency is committed to providing services where they are critically needed: in the community, for the people who need them most. 


Family Service Agency

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(805) 965.1001 x 1255
Director of Development: Paul Katan


Our mission is to strengthen and advocate for families and individuals of all ages and diversities, helping to create and preserve a healthy community.

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FSA has always found a way to help those in need, expanding the depth of its programs when necessary. It is truly an asset to our community.
Marni Cooney
Board member

Help Serve More Families in Need, Faster

Family Service Agency has a long tradition of helping low-income people across Santa Barbara County receive the help they need in times of crisis. It’s a holistic approach that provides the wrap-around care each individual needs in order to become self-reliant, a mission that’s importance has become even more pronounced in the past few years.

But with inflation on the rise, FSA and the Santa Barbara County residents it serves need help.  

“Where we are really lacking is having enough flexible funding for basic needs,” Lisa Brabo, FSA’s CEO says. “We’re doing our best to serve as many families as we can, but that’s where we really need help.”

Board of Directors

Molly Carrillo-Walker, Co-President
Tricia Price, Co-President
Rod Durham, Co-VP of Programs
Edward Tran, Co-VP of Programs
Maria McCall, VP of Development
Robert Janeway, Co-Treasurer
Linda Sessler, Co-Treasurer
Teressa Johnes, Secretary

Mario Barfield, Psy.D.
Arianna Castellanos
Paul Cordeiro
Marni Cooney
Robin Doell Sawaske
Ed Galanski
Patty Herrera
Blanca Mejia, J.D.
Alexander Murkison
Paul Van Meel
Ryan Zick, J.D.
Terri Zuniga

Shirley Ann