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Teaching Through a Pandemic

One pandemic later and we are living in a world of virtual learning and 18 months later we are slowly beginning to integrate back to some semblance of normalcy. We wanted to take a moment to interview Haven Hills’ teacher to share her thoughts about the education program at Haven Hills and how the pandemic has affected her program. 

  • Interviewer: Tell me about Haven Hills’ Children’s programs and on-site shelter school? 

I am extremely proud of the educational program my team and I have developed throughout my 10 years at Haven Hills. We have always maintained a child-centered curriculum, combined with rigorous attention to state standards; taught in a creative and engaging way. As a teacher who has previously taught in classrooms containing 30+ students, I feel blessed to have the luxury of an environment where I can focus on individual needs and strengths so vital to a child’s growth and self-esteem. Both the kids and I have thrived in this atmosphere. When I hear a 15-year-old boy tell me that mine was the first class where he ever read an entire book, or when a 10-year-old girl, told for years she was “stupid” at math, lights up at mastering division; it is no mystery why I have stayed here 10 years.  

We focus on English/Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies every day.  Art, music, and dance are also a big part of my classroom.  Over the years, I have collected a terrific assortment of lesson plans for all grades and interests.  Some, I have written, some I have borrowed, and on some I have collaborated.  The remarkable thing about educators is that they love to share their successful lessons with each other! The structure of the classroom is divided by age and grade.  We serve kids kindergarten through high school.  I design an instructional program for each of the kids based on my initial assessments, state standards, and the children’s own strengths and interests.  I only have them for a maximum of 45 days (about 1 and a half months), but it is wonderful to see what some TLC can do. 

  • Interviewer: How is their learning structured during the pandemic? 

 Throughout the last year, the Haven Hills team and I have challenged ourselves to maintain the education of our client’s children in any way possible. We have distributed thrice weekly lessons, worksheets, and curricula, offered Zoom classes, and purchased hands on science and art kits for the kids to enjoy. I have heard from many parents throughout the year that the children enjoy the educational packets and that the parents also enjoy doing them with their kids! So, as an unexpected bonus, parents and children have strengthened their bond! Yay! That said, though, I cannot WAIT to get back into the classroom, whenever that may be. I miss the interaction and the joy I get from my students. 

  • Interviewer: Do you work with partner organizations? 

Most other DV (DOMESTIC VIOLENCE) shelters do not have onsite schools, which is a shame, because it is unsafe for the children to return to their old school (because of the abuser).  There have been many cases of the abusive partner kidnapping the children from their school and/or using them as leverage against the DV survivor.  So, back in the 70’s, when Haven Hills began, the women who founded it wisely wanted the children to continue their studies. They also knew the routine of school would provide comfort and structure to traumatized kids.  They also intuitively knew that happy kids help heal the DV survivors.  So, they designed a one-room schoolhouse for the survivor’s children onsite where the kids could thrive and get a lot of individual attention they have been needing for years.  Other DV shelters are beginning to catch on to how necessary a school is for the health of their clients and have installed them or in the process of developing them. Another serendipitous event occurred during this last challenging year. A sister shelter contacted me to pick my brain on developing their own classroom onsite! I happily babbled on for an hour to their administrator and it truly reminded me how much I love teaching at Haven Hills. He told me he is going to incorporate many of my suggestions. This success is a shared one:  I could not do the positive things for the kids I do without the support and encouragement of the Haven Hills team. 

  • Interviewer: Do you have any advice for parents out there who may be struggling with school? 

Advice for parents struggling with school is first…realize we are all struggling so do not be tough on yourself.  Also, do not be ashamed or embarrassed to reach out for support from other parents or teachers, online or by phone.  There are terrific free resources available:  the Los Angeles Unified School District, the PTA, even the public library! There are parent support groups that are open and encouraging to all — all you need to do is ask. 

  • Interviewer: Do you have a favorite teaching moment? 

My favorite teaching moment is when school is over and the kids do not want to leave! Yes, that does sometimes happen.  That is truly a great moment. 

Next: 40 Hour Domestic Violence Training

Recent posts

  • Housing is an especially important concern for many Survivors.

    Leaving a domestic violence situation is not easy.  Often survivors are faced with almost insurmountable obstacles that make it difficult for them to seek safety. At Haven Hills we believe that everyone deserves to live a life free from violence and make it our mission to help survivors break down barriers that keep them in unsafe relationships. 

    Women like Claire who in April 2022 was referred to us by another domestic violence agency and began working with one of our Housing Navigators.  With the financial assistance from our Housing First program, and despite the many challenges in her path, Claire worked to reach huge milestones. 

    The first obstacle Claire had to overcome was an open child custody case with her abusive partner, for custody of her youngest son.   Costly fees to obtain legal representation were a significant barrier. Through financial assistance from the program, she has secured legal representation and continues to work towards regaining full custody of her son. Unfortunately, the Judge, in that custody case, deemed the shelter in which she was residing an unsuitable environment for her son. Therefore, it became imperative that Claire find housing, in her son’s school district, to comply with the Judge’s requirements.

    In July 2022, she obtained a place to live within her son’s school district where she could live with both of her children. The Housing First Program provided support for Claire’s security deposit and a few months of rental assistance to allow time for Claire to get back on her feet after exiting the shelter.

    Throughout that time, Claire and her Housing Navigator worked together to provide her with assistance crucial to her independence and safety. 

    • We helped earn her Basic Life Support Certification which helped her obtained new employment with better pay and hours.
    • We helped her with essential furniture assistance to help her establish her new home. 
    • We helped her with emergency food and clothing to help as she continued to stabilize.

    Much like healing trauma and abuse, finding affordable, safe housing is crucial to helping survivors reduce the possibility of future violence. That is why programs like Housing First are so important as they reduce housing instability and homelessness and ensure that survivors have increased economic opportunities.

    Claire is very thankful to the Haven Hills Team and often refers to Haven Hills as “Heaven Hills” and to the Haven Hills’ team as her “angels”.  We couldn’t be prouder of her success and the small part we played in her achievements.

    Despite the many barriers still before her, Claire continues to make steady progress towards self-sustainability and is hopeful for what is yet to come. Haven Hills will continue to provide support to ensure that Claire and her children don’t lose their housing or their financial independence. 

    Since 2018 the Housing First Program has helped survivors like Claire exit from our transitional program, crisis shelter, and outreach programs to find housing successfully, pursue their goals and improve their quality of life.

    To find out how your unrestricted gift can help us invest in critical programs like Housing First please contact our Development Department at 818-887-7481 ext. 121.

  • Homelessness & DV


    Do you consider domestic violence a cause to homelessness in the United States? You may be surprised to learn that domestic violence is a common factor in homelessness for single adults and families. It decreases job stability, threatens financial stability, and interferes with the victim’s abilities to form supportive relationships to escape the abuse. In many cases, domestic violence is the immediate
    cause of their homelessness, and the two are tightly interwoven.


    In Los Angeles, domestic violence (DV) and homelessness are strongly correlated as
    evidenced by the 2019 Homeless Count report published by Los Angeles Homeless
    Services Agency (LAHSA). In Los Angeles County, there was a 28% increase among
    individuals/families who were homeless due to fleeing a domestic violence situation.
    The City of Los Angeles reported a 42% increase among homeless individuals/families reporting either current incidences or experience of DV. According to the National LowIncome Housing Coalition, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in LA is $1,670; requiring an annual income of $66,520 or $31.98 per hour; a household would need three minimum wage job earners to afford such rent. These staggering figures make it extremely difficult for low-income individuals and families to secure and maintain affordable housing, especially for DV survivors during COVID-19. Domestic Violence survivors face unique barriers regarding safety, confidentiality, and dealing with trauma.
    When victims do flee, many times from a lethal incident, they flee to domestic violence
    Emergency Shelters or fall into homelessness when these resources are not available.
    It comes down to this – when victims make the hard decision to leave and reach out for
    help, they must be able to find safety and support if they are to escape domestic
    violence.


    Serving domestic violence survivors begins with availability and access to safe, physical
    spaces to support survivors and their children. In fact, the immediate need of a survivor
    fleeing domestic violence is safety. Some survivors may be able to safely stay in their
    own home with some additional financial support through rental assistance while others
    may require a stay in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program before reentering their own independent housing. 


    To help our clients find safe housing, Haven Hills has Housing Navigators. Our Housing
    Navigators are case managers that assesses, coordinate and monitor housing plans for
    clients in all three of our programs. Their job is to advocate with landlords, homeless
    service providers and housing partners to find clients permanent and stable housing
    once they leave our facilities.

    Our housing efforts include our two shelter programs (Crisis and Transitional Housing) and our Housing First program which assist clients in securing safe, permanent, and affordable housing upon exit from our shelters and individuals and families in the community. Since 2019, we have provided over $1million dollars ($1,026,645) to 243 households, including 125 families and 118 single individuals (243 adults / 170 children). In addition, 42 clients received financial support for education, materials,
    household utilities and other flexible funding to support their housing efforts. Clients
    report the support has changed their lives and helped them feel more confident when
    transitioning out of our shelters, allowing them to focus on employment or educational
    aspirations to maintain their housing upon exit. The greatest benefit is the flexible,
    financial assistance to help with deposits, utilities, and dealing with emergency costs.
    Short-term financial assistance to secure and maintain housing can change the
    trajectory of a family in so many ways – leading them to live safe, healthy, and happy
    lives; and most importantly ending the cycle of violence. Effectiveness at Haven Hills
    has been demonstrated mainly by placement of survivors in safe, permanent housing
    without the abuser; there has been a notable increase with the implementation of this
    program since 2018.


    Much like healing trauma and abuse, finding affordable, safe housing is crucial to
    helping survivors reduce the possibility of future violence. Research indicates that
    families that receive a housing subsidy after exiting homelessness are far less likely to
    experience interpersonal violence than those that do not. Having an affordable place to
    call home is crucial for this population, to both reduce their risk of homelessness as well
    as the possibility of future violence.


    We urge victims to leave their abusers, we even go so far as to tell them they must
    leave, yet where should they go? Survivors are entitled to a clear pathway to housing
    that will help them get back on the road to self-sufficiency.

  • Keep Breathing

    Usually, when you experience any form of abuse from a partner — whether that be physical, psychological, financial, or sexual abuse, people will encourage you to disconnect from your abuser. This can include stopping all communication, and seeking police support if appropriate.

    However, with children, the process of separation is more complex and often means you need to remain in contact with the other party, despite harm that happened within the relationship. Having a child with an abuser is an unbreakable bond that you will share for the rest of your life.

    It can be hard to have your own identity when you are struggling and trying to provide a safe place for yourself and your children. Like our survivor Megan who shared her struggle:

    I take deep breaths. I have felt suffocated for years. Tried to catch my breath by leaving “him”. But I couldn’t breathe as they put the handcuffs on me for “abusing him” when I had been the one abused. I couldn’t breathe when they handed me the restraining order to not come within 100 yards of my kids because I was a “danger” to them. I couldn’t breathe in every court hearing being told I was a bad parent. I couldn’t breathe as I slept in the truck. I was able to take small breaths when I was able to fight the negatives and get them back. I could take deep breaths as I finally had them in my arms after two months of nothing. My breath was taken again when they pulled my three month old from my arms because of both of “them”. I couldn’t breathe when I sat in that room for 1 hour as not one but TWO social workers watched my every move as I “visited” my kids. I couldn’t breathe when the ER doctor told me I was pregnant. Short breaths and reflect and the choices I am making. Deep breaths as I secured my income and escaped the abuse, finding us a safe home. Full breaths when I was finally told I could have my kids back after a year and a half. Slow breathing as “he” disappeared for months leaving me to do it all, feeding them, loving them through their own pains and confusion. And again, small breathes as he returns and threatens to take them again because I decided to fight for “him” to pitch in for their survival. Preparing myself to deal with the ups and downs of co-parenting with an abuser. Life can be breathtaking in both ways. But the point is to Keep Breathing. I will continue to have my kids be my oxygen.♥

    Client’s name withheld

    Don’t forget to nurture your own identity and life. It may be difficult, it is important to build a broader identity outside parenthood and your relationship, to ensure you have a range of identities to draw solace from.

    Work, friendships, hobbies, and other relationships can be sources of support and meaning and give you something to feel positive about at times when the co-parenting relationship feels particularly fraught.

    For information on how to deal with the effects of trauma or to get help, please visit our website at havenhills.org.