Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center Celebrates 50 Years of Empowering Youth, Families

By Giving List Staff   |   May 12, 2023

For the past 50 years, Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center (SMVYFC) has provided vital mental health counseling and family support services to Santa Maria youth and families—often at their most critical times of need. The Center, which merged with Family Service Agency (FSA) of Santa Barbara County in 2017, empowers families to tackle mental health challenges, poverty, and parenting issues as they take steps toward strengthening their families and achieving wellness.

“Strong families are the cornerstone of strong communities,” said Brian Zimmerman, Director of Student and Family Services for the Santa Maria Bonita School District (SMBSD). “Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center has helped students and their families in our district for generations.”

SMVYFC first opened its doors in 1973 as Social Advocates for Youth. By the end of the decade, the organization was providing on-site support for students at three elementary schools and one junior high—the beginning of a long collaboration with SMBSD. Today, more than 35 Outreach Mentors serve all 21 campuses in the SMBSD. An additional 45 family advocates and therapists provide family support services and mental health counseling throughout the Valley.

In 1980, the agency changed its name to the Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center (SMVYFC). In 2019, FSA and SMVYFC merged with The Little House By The Park, further expanding the access to programs. (See attached timeline for additional SMVYFC milestones.)

“Services have greatly expanded since the mergers,” said Tricia Price, FSA Board Co-President. “Each entity has benefited from the expertise of the other. We’re now providing more comprehensive services at each location, while still appealing to the unique characteristics of each community.”

Under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer, Lisa Brabo, SMVYFC continues to provide a comprehensive continuum of affordable, accessible, and culturally competent services to over 12,000 youth and their families annually.

“It’s been a pleasure to serve the Santa Maria Valley with vital family support and behavioral health programs that empower families,” said Brabo. “Our staff and services have grown to meet the needs of Santa Maria, and we will continue to grow to meet the community’s needs.”

FSA and SMVYFC have planned a series of events throughout the year to celebrate. Check the website for updates.

  • Stop by the Santa Maria Public Library in May to see a display of five decades of artifacts and pictures of the organization
  • Visit one of our Santa Maria offices for a free growable sunflower
    • SMVYFC, 101 N. Lincoln St, Santa Maria, CA
    • Santa Maria Family Resource Center, 648 E Enos Dr, Santa Maria, CA
  • Check out FSA’s Facebook and Instagram profiles for “Flashback Friday” posts
  • Share your story of the agency on social media or email it to
  • Join in a community celebration this fall at the new Machada Plaza (date to be announced)

Family Service Agency

Donate now!
(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