Center for Family Strengthening is dedicated to strengthening families through education and advocacy. The center partners with family support organizations in San Luis Obispo County to provide resources to families in need, protect children from abuse and neglect, and ensure that strong families are a community priority.

Helping families thrive.


COVID-19 Support & Resources

Our mission at Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) is to strengthen families through education and advocacy. Our programs remain operational and we are committed to serving our community during this unusual time.

We continue to work closely with family support organizations in SLO County to provide resources to families in need and help mitigate the stressors that put children at risk for abuse and neglect. All families, especially those in vulnerable social and economic situations, need our support now. 

The COVID-19 pandemic we confront today presents unique and serious risk factors for many families. Children are especially vulnerable to the stresses of health risks, school closures, isolation and economic instability in their families. Without the structure and safety of school, children who were already vulnerable to abuse and neglect at home face a greater threat. 

If you are concerned for the welfare of a child, call the San Luis Obispo County Kids Hotline at 805-781-5437.

Please stay informed and connected:

Many community members are out of work due to Shelter-At-Home orders. Families are facing housing insecurity and living with fear and anxiety. Below is information about SLO County renters’ rights during the COVID-19 crisis.

No-Cost COVID-19 Testing Now Available for Any San Luis Obispo County Resident

Any San Luis Obispo County resident can now get tested for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in about five minutes at sites in Paso Robles and Grover Beach. Testing is available at no cost to individuals.
WHEN: By appointment, Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Two locations:

  • Paso Robles Veteran’s Center, 240 Scott Street in Paso Robles
  • Ramona Garden Park Center, 993 Ramona Avenue in Grover Beach

WHO: Testing is available to any resident who would like to be tested.
TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT: Visit or call 888-634-1123.

Learn more at,

Local Information Lines: Dignity Health is operating a COVID-19 information line in Spanish and English.
Spanish: 805-614-5758
English: 805-332-8276
The lines are staffed Monday through Friday 8am – 8pm, and weekends 8am – 4:30pm. If calling after hours, leave a message and the call will be returned as soon as possible. For more information visit,

California Launches New Comprehensive, Consumer-Friendly Website and Public Service Announcements to Boost COVID-19 Awareness. More information here.

COVID-19 information and resources for San Luis Obispo County can be found here,

National Health Information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Food delivery support for seniors, disabled individuals, those with health issues that cannot leave their home, and mental health resources:

Family Resources & Support

  • For family resources and support in Spanish, please call the Promotores Collaborative of San Luis Obispo County Program Coordinator Fernanda Lucas at (805) 462-7135. The San Luis Obispo County Promotores continue working diligently to ensure that they are providing resources in Spanish and support by phone to the Latino Community in this time of need. They are connecting families with resources, providing updates on the food bank distributions, and sharing kids’ activity websites.  The Promotores continue providing interpretation for Monolingual families at all the Behavioral Health Clinics of San Luis Obispo County.  They are also assisting at Food Bank Distribution at North County sites. 
  • Pregnancy & Parenting Support of SLO County serves families with children 0 – 2 years old and is open by appointment only. Call the office at 805-541-3367, leave a message and they will call back to schedule an appointment. Supplies available include diapers, wipes, formula, infant and toddler clothing, and more.
  • The Link Family Resource Center Family Advocates are working remotely while schools are closed and in communication with families, school staff and our community partners. Visit this link to contact a Family Advocate or refer a family for assistance,

Our COVID-19 message on the CFS website will be updated as new information emerges. Please check our website and follow us on Facebook to gain access to current resources and information for children and families.

Guided by the recommendations of the WHO, CDC and the SLO County Public Health Department, Center for Family Strengthening will remain updated on information related to COVID-19 in order to make informed decisions about how we can keep our community safe, healthy and supported.

Thank you for your ongoing support for CFS and all the families we serve in San Luis Obispo County. Together we ensure that strong, healthy families are a community priority. 

With appreciation,

Lisa Fraser, Executive Director
Center for Family Strengthening
(805) 543-6216 

Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) Receives Disaster Support Fund grant from Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County

CFS joins coalition providing support for vulnerable families in San Luis Obispo County

Center for Family Strengthening is pleased to share that it’s been awarded $5,000 from the Disaster Support Fund from The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County to provide concrete financial assistance for undocumented and mixed status families. CFS is so grateful for the community members who have contributed to the Disaster Support Fund. Their generosity makes it possible for our programs to assist many valued families who provide essential services for all of us in San Luis Obispo County.

Community Foundation Grant Supports Latino Communities

The residents of San Luis Obispo County have shown their support to our most vulnerable populations through donations to the Disaster Support Fund at The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County

The Community Foundation awarded a Disaster Support Fund rapid response grant to Center for Family Strengthening for the Promotores program. The funds will help us continue serving the Latino communities in San Luis Obispo County with concrete support and resources.

“Thanks to this grant, our Promotores, who are true heroes, will continue working with the community to provide the emotional support, resources and accurate information to one of our most vulnerable populations: the Latino and Mixteco community,” shared Erica Ruvalcaba-Heredia, Ed.D., Director of Programs at Center for Family Strengthening. “Promotores volunteers distribute food bags from the Food Bank to elderly people or other families who don’t have transportation. They are constantly checking in with families to provide emotional support during this difficult time.”

2020 Census: Every child counts

You may have seen messages about the 2020 Census. That’s because April 1, 2020 is Census Day. The Census happens every 10 years and is the only official population count in the U.S.

When you fill out the Census form and count everyone at your address, you help decide how much money our community will receive for the next 10 years. This includes programs that support your loved ones: schools, child care, medical care, food assistance, housing, and public transportation.

Remember, when it comes to the Census, everyone counts. Count ALL children living at your address. Don’t forget to include babies born on or before April 1, 2020, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, foster children, and people not related to you, like a friend and his/her child, if they are living with you on April 1, 2020.

Filling out the Census form for your address is easy. You can respond to the Census online or by phone in English, Spanish, or 11 other languages. You can even do it on your smartphone! Visit on April 1, 2020.

When we all respond to the Census and count all children who live at an address—even children who are not related to the adult filling out the Census form—here’s what happens:

  • Our child care and health centers get more funding during the next 10 years to help the families stay healthy and thrive.
  • Our community also gets more funding for programs like CalFresh, WIC, Medi-Cal, Head Start, and early childhood education for the next decade so families can get the medical care, education and food assistance they need to be healthy.
  • Our elected representation in California and Washington, D.C. is protected and may improve.

By law, the U.S. Census Bureau must keep all information private. Census workers are not allowed to share responses with anyone, including other government agencies, landlords, or anyone else. All Census workers take a lifetime oath to protect personal information. Breaking this law has severe penalties, including a fine up to $250,000, five years in prison, or both.

Visit on April 1, 2020.

San Luis Obispo County Health Access has additional resources and information for providers working with families with children ages 0 – 5.

En California, todos los niños cuentan.

Habrás visto mensajes sobre el censo 2020, ya que el 1 de abril de 2020 es el día del Censo. El censo ocurre cada 10 años y es la única manera oficial de contar la población de los EE. UU.

Al llenar el formulario del censo y contar a todos los que viven en tu dirección, ayudas a determinar la cantidad de dinero que nuestra comunidad recibirá en los próximos 10 años. Ese dinero apoya la escuelas, cuidado infantil, asistencia alimentaria, hogares, cuidado médico y transportación pública.

Recuerda que cuando se trata del censo, todos contamos. Cuenta a TODOS los niños que vivan en tu dirección. No olvides incluir a los bebés nacidos en o antes del 1 de abril de 2020, sobrinos, nietos, hijos adoptivos y cualquier otra persona que no esté relacionada a ti, si ellos viven contigo el 1 de abril de 2020.

Llenar el formulario del censo para tu dirección es fácil. Puedes llenarlo por teléfono o por internet en español, inglés, o en otros 11 idiomas. También lo puedes hacer en un “smartphone” (iPhones, androids, etc.) Visita el 1 de abril de 2020.

Cuando todos llenamos el censo y contamos a los niños que viven en nuestra dirección, aún si el adulto que esté llenando el formulario del censo no esté relacionado con estos niños, esto es lo que ocurre:

  • Los centros de cuido de niño obtienen más fondos durante los próximos 10 años para ayudar a mantener a nuestras familias saludables y a salir adelante.
  • Nuestra comunidad también obtiene fondos para programas como CalFresh, WIC, Medi-Cal y SCHIP para proveer cuidado médico y asistencia alimentara para la próxima década.
  • Nuestra representación del gobierno en California y Washington, D.C. es protegida y puede que mejore.

Por ley, toda la información del censo no se puede compartir con el propietario de tu vivienda o alguna agencia de gobierno. Romper esta ley viene con múltiples penalidades para los funcionarios del Censo, incluso una multa de $250,000, una sentencia de cinco años de cárcel, o ambas cosas.

Motive a las familias a llenar el formulario del censo el 1 de abril de 2020, visitando

Protecting children from sexual abuse in SLO County

How CFS advocates for the prevention of child sexual abuse. 

Many San Luis Obispo County community members read the recent Tribune article “Two girls testify against SLO man in molestation trial”. The abuser was arrested in 2016 and now three years later two young women who were victimized by him bravely testified in court at the end of June.

According to Berkeley Media Studies, news coverage of child sexual abuse is usually tied to a “moment” in the criminal justice process, which means that there is very little coverage of prevention since most reports focus on an incident after the fact and discussions of how to prevent child sexual abuse are virtually absent from news coverage.

At Center for Family Strengthening, we play a central role advocating for the shift of conversations to how institutions can create environments that prevent child sexual abuse in San Luis Obispo County. One approach is our Kidz Toolbox for Personal Safety program. Center for Family Strengthening hires qualified educators who teach children self-protection skills and about safe and unsafe touching. We also provide adults accurate information about child sexual abuse through Kidz Toolbox for Personal Safety. Our approach includes educating parents, teachers, childcare providers and the community, all who play a critical role in protecting children from all forms of abuse.

A recent New York Times article shared about protecting children from sexual abuse through proactive prevention. Give Your Child the Tools to Recognize Sexual Abuse speaks to the importance of talking to children about their bodies, learning appropriate boundaries, and supporting them in sharing when they feel uncomfortable. “Preventing abuse is equally important: By giving children the necessary tools, we can help them learn how to stay safer and support them should they face a traumatic situation” writes Dr. Shani Zoldan-Verschleiser, AuD., L.M.S.W.
The article highlights tips that are taught in our program, Kidz Toolbox for Personal Safety.

  • A child’s feelings and body deserve respect
  • There is a difference between secrets and surprises
  • Create a norm of “asking permission” to touch a child
  • Invite children to use creative descriptions when sharing, including feelings, sensations and age-appropriate terms

With community donations and grant awards from Central Coast Funds for Children and In-N-Out Burger Foundation, Center for Family Strengthening provides Kidz Toolbox for Personal Safety lessons for over 3,000 school-age children and their parents. To learn more, visit

PRESS RELEASE: Dr. Melissa Merrick Named New President & CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America

Chicago—Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America) announced today that after a nationwide search its board of directors has selected Dr. Melissa Merrick (right) as the organization’s next president and chief executive officer.

Merrick brings more than 18 years of clinical, research and leadership experience related to the etiology, course and prevention of child abuse and neglect. Merrick currently serves as a senior epidemiologist at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and will begin with PCA America on July 15.

“We’re pleased to have found an individual so uniquely qualified to assume leadership of the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization focused on the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect,” said PCA America Board Chair Andrea Robertson. “Dr. Merrick has strategically framed the prevention of early adversity as an urgent public health need, directly connected to positive child welfare, social and economic outcomes in her work at CDC. We’re thrilled she’ll be leading the next chapter of PCA America’s important work.”

Read more here.

News Release from Womenade – North San Luis Obispo County

Womenade – North San Luis Obispo County will be holding its first public meeting on July 7th at 4:00, at the Twin Cities Hospital’s Morgan Conference room. Come and be a part of this exciting new beginning. There will be refreshments offered and donations will be encouraged.

During the gathering we will be honoring Sandy Richardson, the founder of SLOWomenade many years ago. A notebook is being started and we would appreciate any pictures, letters or notes of appreciation. Please send to This will be a particularly poignant event as Sandy is retiring and Womenade North San Luis Obispo County is just beginning to be formed. And we know that it means we are filling some really big shoes. We are also very excited that Sandy will be joining our Advisory Council as Emeritus Director sharing her expertise and experience.

SLOWomenade has helped thousands of people and we are excited to carry on this tradition. Womenade North San Luis Obispo County is partnering with Lutheran Social Services of Southern California, a 70 year old non-profit, to create a local grass-roots initiative connecting your generosity to your neighbor’s emergency.

A Womenade member captured our work writing: “Lemonade starts with a bunch of lemons, Womenade started with a bunch of women, the rest….is history!” This group of fun people are carrying a long tradition of making a concrete difference in the lives of people in the North County. Come and join the fun!

Postpartum Depression Support in SLO County

Anna’s Postpartum Depression Story

Anna was so excited to have her baby.  Her friends celebrated her first pregnancy by giving her a lavish shower full of cute baby clothes, blankets, diapers, and many other necessities. At the shower, there were lots of smiles and “awes” from all at her party.  Two weeks later, Anna gave birth to an 8-pound beautiful, healthy baby. 

Within days after coming home, Anna’s world collapsed and tossed her into a sea of confusion, pain, and depression.  She felt worried and hopeless and had a hard time bonding with her baby.  These feelings left Anna terrified for herself and baby.  Anna was experiencing postpartum depression.

She was not prepared for what was happening to her.  Throughout her prenatal care, Anna’s health care providers, birthing class specialists, and obstetricians had shared about the joys of being a new mother and had never talked about postpartum depression and the symptoms she might experience. When symptoms did occur, Anna was taken by complete surprise; she had no clue that she was the one out of five mothers whose life would be impacted by Postpartum Depression.

What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?

Women who have PPD suddenly experience depression while challenged with the overwhelming demands of caring for a newborn baby and while recovering from childbirth.  The new mother can experience up to five Major Depressive Disorder symptoms that are present nearly every day.  She may suddenly experience many of the following symptoms:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Lack of interest or pleasure in all or most activities
  3. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  4. Recurrent thoughts of death
  5. Recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan or attempt
  6. Significant weight gain or loss
  7. Insomnia or hypersomnia
  8. Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  9. Poor concentration

What makes depression so poignant for postpartum women is childbirth is culturally celebrated, and there is an expectation that new parents, especially mothers, will be joyful as they care for their new baby.” 

Dr. Walker Karraa, Ph.D., noted author and leader in maternal mental health

The demands of caring for a newborn on a mother are substantial. The demands are often difficult to bear in normal circumstances, and any additional stress, complications, and risk factors exacerbate the disability of the mother to deal with depression symptoms (e.g., overwhelming sadness, disabling tiredness, loss of interest, and difficulty concentrating on even the simplest tasks). New mothers often feel the stigma of suffering from a mental illness, when they had expected to feel total joy and astonishment over their new baby.

Anna reacted exactly as Dr. Karraa describes. She misunderstood her condition and felt the guilt of suffering from a mental illness. It is no wonder that even though Anna knew she wanted to be a good Mother, she resisted getting help.

How Can We Help Mothers like Anna?

Nearly 80% of the 2600 mothers giving birth each year in San Luis Obispo County experience some form of Postpartum Depression— from the mild Baby Blues to the full-blown Postpartum Depression with Anxiety and Panic Disorders. Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) and Pregnancy & Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County (PPS) have teamed together to promote physical and mental health for mothers, children, and families through their programs and outreach. Their services include:—Thanks to the generous financial support provided by First 5 San Luis Obispo County, CFS and PPS have created and maintained a website where prospective, and new parents can connect and learn about symptoms and treatments for Baby Blues, Postpartum Depression, and Anxiety Disorders.  The website provides a a 24 hour hotline so mothers can get immediate help.

Pregnancy & Parenting Support is a safe place a mother can turn to receive emotional support, empathy and personable care.  Pregnancy and Parenting Support staff is trained to recognize the signs of PPD, to make needs assessments and refer Mothers to mental health counselors as required.  The staff empowers mothers, helping them become self-reliant and strong advocates for themselves and their families. In addition to emotional support and counseling referrals for maternal mental health concerns, PPS also provides tangible necessities as needed for the well being of families with children up to age two.  PPS is a bilingual and bicultural agency that supports families of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Women in SLO County experiencing any PPD symptoms can call Pregnancy & Parenting Support at 805-541-3367 for free, confidential information and referrals.

Educational Outreach—Postpartum Depression often affects the entire family.  Center for Family Strengthening provides extensive educational outreach to the entire SLO County community to create awareness about Postpartum Depression and to promote physical and mental health for mothers, children, and families.  CFS is well versed in the network of social services agencies and provides linkages to other agencies to support the new mother and her baby.  Through its Parent Connection program, CFS offers parents confidential, one-on-one parent coaching at no cost in English and Spanish. Parents and caregivers needing support can call 805-543-3700 to connect with a parent coach.

CFS and PPS collaborate to bring Maternal Mental Health Support groups in areas of the community that are secluded from the rest of the county.  These support groups are designed to help mothers connect with other mothers and with professionals to receive the services and support they need most. Contact Pregnancy & Parenting Support at 805-541-3367 to join a group or refer a mother.

Postpartum Depression is serious and left untreated may cause significant stress and potentially trigger abuse of the newborn baby.  A woman cannot “pull herself out of it” any more than she can pull herself out of a heart attack.  All symptoms, from the mildest to the most severe are treatable.  Most importantly, a woman does not need to suffer through this alone.

Mothers remember:

You are not alone

You are not to blame

You will get better

There is help!

Women in SLO County experiencing symptoms, partners, and concerned family members can call Pregnancy & Parenting Support at 805-541-3367 for free, confidential information and referrals. Pregnant/postpartum women and their families will be connected with qualified treatment services and accessible health resources as needed.

2019 Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

Approximately 2600 babies are born each year in San Luis Obispo County. Childbirth can be difficult. Maternal Mental Health Disorders are the most common complication of childbirth.

Depression and anxiety affect 1 in 5 pregnant and postpartum women. Postpartum depression may occur immediately after birth or many months later. The longer a depression goes undiagnosed and untreated, the more impact it has on the woman and her family. Postpartum depression often leaves women feeling ashamed, isolated and with overwhelming feelings of guilt.

Risk Factors for Depression – experiences that may put some women at a higher risk for depression include:

  • Stress.
  • Low social support.
  • Difficulty getting pregnant.
  • Being a mom to multiples, like twins, or triplets.
  • Losing a baby.
  • Being a teen mom.
  • Preterm (before 37 weeks) labor and delivery.
  • Having a baby with a birth defect or disability.
  • Pregnancy and birth complications.
  • Having a baby or infant who has been hospitalized.

Some women with postpartum emotional disorders recover without incident. Many others need professional help. Postpartum emotional problems are physical and real. A woman can not “pull herself out of it” any more than she can pull herself out of a heart attack.

Depression can also occur among women with a healthy pregnancy and birth. Fathers and partners are effected as well and are more likely to become depressed before or after baby’s birth if the moms were also afflicted. In additional to the resources below fathers and partners can find support through Parent Connection of SLO County, including support groups and parent coaching.

A woman experiencing any symptoms can call our Support Line 805-541-3367 for free confidential information and referrals in English and Spanish. All the symptoms, from the mildest to the most severe are temporary and treatable. Treatment varies, depending on the severity of the symptoms. For more information visit our Pregnancy & Postpartum Depression program page or If you need Support Line brochures in English or Spanish, please contact the CFS office at 805-543-6216.

2019 Children’s Memorial Flag Raising Ceremony

Please join us for the 1st Annual Children’s Memorial Flag Raising Ceremony in San Luis Obispo County.

The Department of Social Services in collaboration with the California Office of Child Abuse Prevention and Center for Family Strengthening will be participating in a statewide raising of the Children’s Memorial Flag to honor young lives lost due to senseless violence. We gather as a community in April for National Child Abuse Prevention Month to acknowledge the importance of working together to prevent child maltreatment. 

Date/Time: Friday, April 26, 2019 at 1:30 pm 
Location: Courthouse (Flag Pole and Plaza area). 1050 Monterey St. San Luis Obispo, CA 93408

For questions, please contact Sandra Jimenez at 805-781-1879 or via E-mail at

27 August 2020

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25 February 2021

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