Parents Denise and Richard Torres thought they were out of
options and didn’t know where to turn. The past two years had
been a series of intense and escalating behaviors demonstrated by
their son, Angel.
Angel had experienced bullying at school that triggered and
compounded his stress level, until it became completely
unmanageable. “We had the cops out here every other day. There
were lots of violent outbursts, suicide attempts and frequent
visits to Sacramento County’s crisis mental health center,”
Richard says. “I thought I had lost my son and failed as a
Gymnastics fan and bright 13 year-old Katelyn began feeling less
and less like your average tween. “She wasn’t making the best
choices and didn’t feel the greatest about herself,” said mom,
Linda. Katelyn was having trouble controlling her emotions, she
would act out by hitting rather than using words to express
herself, which caused problems at school and with her peers.
Growing increasingly frustrated and worried about her daughter’s
behavior, Linda sought advice from the family’s pediatrician who
recommended she look into the programs at Stanford Youth
Solutions. The counselors at Stanford were able to teach Katelyn
ways to communicate her needs safely at home and at school. “She
thinks before she acts now,” said Linda. “She uses words to
express herself and she’s learned great coping skills for when
words aren’t enough.”
Diamond grew up in and out of group homes. She had suffered
abuse, neglect and participated in risky behavior. She ran away
from her group home and thought she had no other option than to
live on the streets.
About two years later, Diamond reappeared at her old group home,
pregnant and alone. Living on the streets was a rough existence
and Diamond was dealing with a lot of anger issues. She began
working with Stanford Youth Solutions and was determined to
When Connie began caring for her ailing mother, she found out her
brother was about to lose custody of his children. Rather than
see her niece and nephews become wards of the court, she took
over custody and eventually adopted them, including her nephew
Stacey. When Connie’s mother passed away, she also took over
guardianship of her mom’s adopted children. So this meant that
Connie had as many as ten children under her care at one time.
Some of the children ended up with other family members and
Connie settled in with a more manageable family of five.
The stress and instability of his childhood had affected Stacey
deeply. As a young teen, he began staying out late at night and
experimenting with drugs. He got caught for vandalism and for
helping friends steal a car. He wasn’t going to school regularly
and tensions were growing between Stacey and Connie.
Instead of day dreaming about dances and cheering for the
football team, high school student Michelle struggled to deal
with mental health challenges that were tearing her family apart.
She was unable to effectively communicate with her mother and
Michelle’s dangerous behavior had caused her to be placed in a
Michelle worked with Stanford Youth Solutions to help her control
her negative behavior through individual and family therapy.
“I have a future, thanks to Stanford Youth Solutions,“ says
LaDauwn. LaDauwn is a recent graduate from our wraparound
program. “Growing up in Oak Park, having a mother using drugs, no
contact with my father, my life was not easy. I’ve been abused,
neglected and believed I had no future, and I didn’t care. I’ve
been told I’m nothing and I believed it. I began using drugs,
fighting and ended up bouncing from juvenile hall to group homes
with no real connection to my family, friends, or school.
When Sarah was born, her mother tested positive for narcotics and
as a newborn Sarah was often left alone in an apartment without
heating or food. At one year old, she was placed into foster care
and a year later, she was told she would be adopted by another
family. Sarah became nervous at the thought of moving again and
began exhibiting signs of aggression. She didn’t know how to
express her feelings appropriately so she began acting out
It wasn’t until 16 year-old AJ ran away from his Stockton group
home did he find his way back to permanent family. Knowing he had
an adult sister in Sacramento, AJ walked alongside the freeway
alone and in search of a better life.
His troubled past included abondonment from his mother, and the
loss of his father to a terminal coma. There was no one to care
When Brian came to Stanford Youth Solutions, it was his chance to
get out of long-term, institutional care and re-establish
connections with his loving family. Brian was born with
developmental disabilities, coupled with mental and behavioral
health challenges, which led him to an early introduction to the
child welfare system. Having been removed from his home at a
young age, his parents’ hearts were broken. They simply could not
handle his challenges on their own.
Brieanna never knew she would need something as ordinary as a
kitchen appliance. “I had no idea what I would even need to start
out on my own… like I would never even think of needing a
While living in a group home, Brieanna didn’t spend time
wondering what she might have to have in order to live
independently. She was just trying to struggle through everyday
life. After getting in touch with Stanford Youth Solutions,
Brieanna was able to reconnect with an aunt and uncle who allowed
her to live with them while she gained the skills that eventually
helped her to live on her own.
Ashlee escaped a life of instability, neglect, and abuse. Today,
she exudes confidence and wisdom beyond her 20 years.
At age 16, her mother abandoned her. She did not know her father.
Ashlee had no place to go and no family to care for her.
The rest of Ashlee’s story would not be possible without the
generosity of Stanford Youth Solutions supporters. Through
Stanford Youth Solutions’s Family Finding services, Ashlee
rediscovered her father, who invited her to live with him in
10-year old Robert was already on his sixth foster home when he
came to Stanford Youth Solutions. Following regular threats to
hurt himself, Robert was always moved to a new foster home—but
“Mrs. Robertson” was different.
Though a first-time foster parent, Mrs. Robertson refused to give
up on Robert, even when he ended up in the Minor Emergency
Response Team unit of the Sacramento County Mental Health
Treatment Center for threatening to harm himself.
16-year old Myeisha was referred to Stanford Youth
Solutions from the Minor Emergency Response Team (MERT) unit
of the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center after
being admitted against her will for being out of control and
threatening her mother with a knife.
She lived with her parents and five siblings where there was a
history of trauma and domestic violence in the home, which
Myeisha had witnessed as a young child. She had been sexually
assaulted and suffered from seizures, nightmares, hallucinations
Stanford Youth Solutions is pleased announce the appointment of
Dr. Laura Heintz as Chief Executive Officer. Dr. Heintz brings 22
years of progressive and significant industry experience along
with a passion for serving her community to her new role. “I am
excited to be a part of such an exceptional organization that
serves the community where I grew up and live,” says Dr. Heintz.
“I look forward to building on the deep history and quality
services to broaden our reach to more young people and families.”
Stanford Home for Children has changed its name to
Stanford Youth Solutions. The new name more
clearly reflects the mission to inspire sustainable change for
young people and their families and empower them to solve serious
challenges together. Watch the Comcast Newsmakers interview with
Stanford Youth Solution’s Associate Executive Director Kären
Woodruff by clicking on the video above.