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North County Services for Abuse Victims Hoping for Relief

An agency dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse says demand for their services is growing. They have plans to hire more people to help in Northern Santa Barbara County. It’s challenging work that can be life changing for the people they help.

Child Abuse Listening Mediation, or C.A.L.M. for short, provides support and therapy for parents and kids in abusive homes. Its North County operation is overwhelmed with the demand.

One Guadalupe woman who got help for her and her daughter at C.A.L.M. says without it, her life may have taken a turn for the worse.

“Aubree’s my world,” said Desiree Griffin, speaking of her 3-year old daughter. “She’s very active, very smart.”

There’s never a dull moment for Griffin when she’s with her daughter Aubree. They live in Desiree’s parent’s home in Guadalupe, but just a year ago things were very different.

“There was a lot of emotions,” said Griffin. “A lot of ups and downs.”

Desiree had just gotten out of an abusive relationship and was caring for Aubree on her own. The mental scars of her abuse were still fresh. To go along with it, Griffin is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The combination was a bad mix.

“It’s very easy for me to get angry and that was scaring me because I was going to have a child with me now,” said Griffin.

Desiree’s case worker referred her to the North County chapter of C.A.L.M. Her weekly visits included therapy sessions that helped her interact with her daughter. Desiree says the change was profound.

“They not only helped me with her but they helped me with myself,” said Griffin. “They were constantly checking up on me to find out what they could help me with.”

Desiree is one of the many cases that C.A.L.M. has handled in North County, where the need for its services outweighs their resources. Of the 5,000 calls to Santa Barbara County Child Welfare Services last year, 80% were from North County. C.A.L.M. officials say finding the right employee is the biggest challenge.

“It’s a great challenge to find and hire bilingual, bicultural therapists,” said Lori Goodman, C.A.L.M. Director of Development. “It’s really important to us that people speak the language of the people we’re serving.”

After graduating out of the program, Desiree says she’s made the change for her daughter that she envisioned.

“It’s been hard but its been a blessing at the same time,” said Griffin. “C.A.L.M. has helped me to reach that point too.”

CALM has about 20 staff members in its Santa Maria office currently. The plan is to double that in the next 20 years.

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