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A new program on the Central Coast aims to reduce the risk of youth violence

Eric Ward
A new program to tackle youth violence is being implemented on the Central Coast

The Secure Families program in Santa Maria, will address the root causes of rising rates of violence.

Youth violence affects us all – whether it directly impacts your family and friends, or the costs of health, welfare and criminal justice services.

"The issues of poverty and violence are just too complex to think we can deal with them alone," says Patricia Keelean, the CEO of CommUnify Santa Barbara – which are launching the new Secure Families Program in the City of Santa Maria.

Keelean says it will provide early intervention and support for at-risk youths in 5th grade.

"For those families who are perhaps dealing with the issues that so many of us are facing, as we come out of the pandemic such as anxiety and depression, and other issues that might be impacting that family unit, we want to be able to provide individual and family counseling as well."

She said the comprehensive, trauma informed, family-centered violence prevention collaboration will be implemented in the City of Santa Maria to address the root causes of rising rates of violence.

Familias Seguras/Secure Families is a California Violence Intervention and Prevention (Cal-VIP) Program. Familias Seguras/Secure Families was awarded $2,524,469 from the Board of State and Community Corrections and emphasizes collaboration between community organizations, agencies, and school districts.

Familias Seguras/Secure Families will provide early intervention by identifying at-risk youths in 5th grade and supporting them – and their households – over a three-year period with comprehensive services and referrals.

CommUnify is working in partnership with other human service organizations, schools, county and city government, higher education, and law enforcement to ensure success including Family Service Agency/Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center, Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, Santa Maria-Bonita School District, University of California Santa Barbara, County of Santa Barbara Behavioral Wellness, County of Santa Barbara Department of Social Services, Santa Maria Police Department, City of Santa Maria office of the Mayor, and the Santa Barbara County Probation Department. These partner organizations provide in-kind services to meet the $1-to-$1 matching funds requirement for the Cal-VIP grant.

Caroline won an LA Press Club Award in 2021 for Use Of Sound. However, she started her broadcasting career in the UK, working on both radio and television for the BBC, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism. She moved to Los Angeles in 2013 and is both an American and British citizen. Caroline lives in Agoura Hills with her daughter, and joined the KCLU team in 2020.