The Storyteller Children’s Center is a full-time educational program serving about 100 families in need in the Santa Barbara area. Focusing on children of parents struggling with homelessness, the center provides a preschool program to care for children while their parents work, look for employment, or go to school.
Strategic Partnerships and the Storyteller Difference
The professionals at Storyteller understand that the problem of homelessness requires a comprehensive approach. With this in mind, it provides the children in the preschool and their parents with access to key services, including specialized therapists, who address issues ranging from behavioral problems to speech delays. By addressing the immediate challenges faced by these children and their families, Storyteller aims to give them every chance at success when they enter elementary school.
To maintain critical programming, Storyteller forges relationships with a range of different local organizations. Among these is the Mariposas Project, an early intervention agency that provides multidisciplinary services for young children with signs of cognitive or physical development issues. Because the Mariposas Project employs a family-centered philosophy, its services blend seamlessly with those of Storyteller.
Storyteller also partners with Child Abuse Listening & Meditation (CALM), which offers on-site therapy and mental health consultations for children who have experienced trauma. By helping these children confront their experiences, CALM shows them how to cope with their emotions in healthy ways. CALM and Storyteller worked together closely to forge a Model for School Readiness that has received significant international attention and was featured as a centerpiece at the Zero to Three national conference in 2010.
The Need for Storyteller in the Santa Barbara Community
Through early intervention, Storyteller gives children the opportunity to become productive members of the community. The support they receive sets children on a path to scholarly success, and helps them avoid crime, incarceration, teen pregnancy, drug use, and other self-destructive behaviors later in life. While investing in children between the ages of months and five years may seem extravagant, Storyteller believes that this investment saves significant money in the long run when behavioral and emotional problems lead to destructive tendencies down the line. When these children become incarcerated or struggle with school as teenagers, the costs of addressing such problems increase monumentally.
One in five children in Santa Barbra County lives in poverty, and typical childcare services in Santa Barbara County average about $13,000 per year. By working with families that can’t afford this care and providing them with the tools and services they need to help themselves, Storyteller aims to break the cycle of economic uncertainty. Many of the families that Storyteller serves have made major strides toward financial empowerment after their child graduates. As a result, the demand for Storyteller’s services is high, and the organization has an extremely long waitlist.
Storyteller Becomes a Permanent Part of the City
For the first decade of its existence, Storyteller had to operate in makeshift locations. It moved to its first home at 2115 State Street in 2000. This allowed the organization to offer services to more than 40 children. In 2007, Storyteller launched a major fundraising campaign and moved into 2121 De La Vina, where it could assist up to 80 children.
For seven years, Storyteller leased the property from the Orfaela Foundation without rent. This was a slightly precarious situation for the organization. However, with the help of government funds, private donations, and community support, Storyteller purchased the De La Vina property last year, making the space its first permanent home. This move has helped stabilize the organization, ensuring that it can continue providing its important services for years to come.
Supporter Storyteller and its Families
People from the Santa Barbara community can support Storyteller in a wide range of ways. The organization relies heavily on volunteers to work directly with children or aid in administrative tasks. Volunteers who work with children provide individualized attention to Storyteller students and may engage groups in creative tasks or story time, which is offered in both English and Spanish. In addition, volunteers help organize events like the yearly Prom fundraiser gala and aid in other fundraising tasks. People can also support Storyteller by making a gift. More information about donations and volunteering is available online at StorytellerCenter.org.