Earlier this month, more than a dozen parents arrived at the Pico Youth and Family Center for an orientation on a new parenting class.
Over the course of the 10-session workshop, which started last week, parents will study theories and learn problem-solving tools to help them handle their children’s emotions.
“We realize that a lot of the problems in our community stem from unresolved trauma,” PYFC director Oscar de la Torre said, “and we wanted to get to the root cause of the problem by helping parents understand how to raise children nonviolently and how to address trauma that has impacted their life.
“We’re talking about domestic violence and substance abuse. We’re talking about divorce or separation. These are issues that are hard to talk about, but they must be addressed to bring healing to people, most importantly to people who are raising the next generation.”
The parenting classes, which are organized in partnership with Los Angeles-based Echo Parenting and led by James Encinas, mark a turning point in what has been a turbulent year for the Santa Monica nonprofit organization.
City Council voted in June to strip funding from PYFC over allegations of poor bookkeeping and financial mismanagement, which de la Torre has repeatedly denied.
The council’s decision remained in the spotlight during a spat between Mayor Kevin McKeown and de la Torre, a Santa Monica-Malibu school board member that played out in the public meetings of their respective agencies.
Now de la Torre is trying to focus on keeping the PYFC afloat without city funding, although he said his organization is enjoying more flexibility in the programs it can offer and the services it can provide.
Founded in part as a response to gang violence in the neighborhood, the center serves as a space for area youth to learn new skills and develop as active citizens.
“It’s obviously a challenge to lose 40 percent of your budget,” de la Torre said. “But now we have more freedom to work with populations beyond the 16- to 24-year-olds that the city wanted us to serve.”
PYFC raised close to $50,000 at its 8th annual Hope & Unity gala Aug. 29, according to de la Torre. A $15,000 grant from Providence Saint John’s Health Center helped the nonprofit surpass its fundraising goal for the 3-month period that started July 1.
This month, de la Torre’s organization is launching a crowd-funding campaign in an attempt to raise $50,000 by Jan. 4.
“Our community has really come forward,” he said. “The government closed one door, but the community opened another. We’re very fortunate to live in a generous community that puts the needs of underserved youth first.”
PYFC has also hired a grant writer to raise money for new programs, such as the parenting classes. The organization is aiming to provide technology training and college and career readiness services as well as mindfulness and wellbeing workshops, de la Torre said.
PYFC is also working to provide more community service opportunities. Volunteers will be delivering food to homeless people on the Venice boardwalk from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday.
“We’re being more creative with how we invest our resources,” de la Torre said.