Kinship Center, a nonprofit adoption agency, to move into old Atascadero library

Exterior of the old Atascadero library building.
Exterior of the old Atascadero library building. Courtesy photo

A local adoptive parent, whose two children were exposed to drugs and alcohol while still in the womb, says that if it weren’t for the nonprofit Kinship Center, she’s not sure how well her kids would fit in at school, whether they’d trust adults or have self-confidence.

Heather (The Tribune is not using her real name to protect the identities of her children) said her older adopted son was taken away from his drug-addicted birth mother in a police car and subsequently moved from one relative’s home to the next. Those unsettling experiences have had a deep impact, and her family needed significant counseling and coping skills to work through them.

Heather fears her family life could be in a constant state of struggle if it weren’t for Kinship, which offers a wide range of services that guide adoptive and foster care children and their families through the scars of troubled pasts.

The nonprofit is renovating the old Atascadero library building to increase its visibility in San Luis Obispo County and give it more room for client services.

Heather’s boys, who are now 11 and 14, are adjusting well thanks to Kinship’s therapeutic, psychiatric and other support programs. They have even developed a relationship with their birth mother and biological brother from whom they were separated at a young age.

There’s no way we’d have this life without (Kinship).

Heather, mother of adopted boys of drug-addicted parents

The younger son settled into his adoptive family at age 2, compared with age 5 for his brother, so he is more comfortable with and trusting of close relationships with mentors in his life. But he still suffered physiologically and socially from his tumultuous infancy, Heather said.

With guidance, the boys are more focused in school and have a loving relationship with their adoptive parents, a gay couple. And they relate to their peers.

“We are absolutely the most fortunate people to be connected with Kinship,” Heather said. “There’s no way we’d have this life without them.”

The organization was founded in 1984 with the goal of helping abused, abandoned and neglected children. It has about 15 to 18 employees locally.

To help bolster its presence and grow its operation, Kinship is moving into the old 8,000-square-foot Atascadero library building at 6850 Morro Road from its small office in Templeton. It plans to open in Atascadero in July. The nonprofit, based in Salinas, operates in 11 California counties. (The Atascadero library relocated to a larger building at 6555 Capistrano Ave. in June 2014.)

Seneca Family of Agencies, which merged with Kinship, bought the Morro Road facility for $1.55 million through a county auction process in May 2015. The company also bought adjacent lots to the Morro Road site, along the Highway 41 corridor, for $250,000 that include a parking lot and a small structure used for book storage by the library.

Among the services that Kinship offers:

▪  Clinic services for adopted and foster care children to help them overcome difficulties in their lives.

▪  A program called Family Ties that helps caregivers manage the transition of taking in a child by providing help in case management, legal guardianship and support groups. They also provide food boxes, clothes and other goods to those in need.

▪  Adoption placement and post-placement support.

▪  Psychoeducational training for parents on development, temperament and brain development.

A Kinship program coordinator, Marta Nielsen, said the center meets the full range of needs for families in foster care or adoption programming. The staff includes therapists and psychiatrists. Staffers also are trained to refer people to programs throughout the county to help serve their needs, including a North County horse program for troubled kids to work with animals, helping them to achieve emotional stability.

“Our clinic is based on a model that has been successful,” Nielsen said. “It’s an evidence-based model that helps families to succeed.”

The type of help Kinship offers includes psychotherapy for an adopted boy with lingering trauma after witnessing severe violence between his mother and stepfather; resources and referrals, support groups and legal assistance for a grandmother caring for two boys whose mother was arrested for drugs; and adoption placement for a child with special needs.

Our clinic is based on a model that has been successful.

Marta Nielsen, Kinship Center program coordinator

Some programs are free, and others offered by Kinship are insured by Medi-Cal.

Since Heather and her partner have adopted their boys, their sons’ birth mother has sobered up and reconnected with her children, which Heather and her partner have encouraged. The boys also have a relationship with their biological brother. Their biological father’s location isn’t currently known.

“We’ve had psychiatric services, a nutrition class that my youngest boy still remembers vividly, parenting classes for me and my partner,” Heather said. “The Kinship staff has provided us with tremendous support, helping us as a group to understand what we’re all going through.”

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