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Community leaders posing with youth who donated backpacks

Youth Donate Backpacks at Walden’s 40th Anniversary

Crisafulli twins sitting amid donation of 100 backpacks

Jacqueline and Sheridan Crisafulli, 11, amid backpacks donated to Walden foster children and youth.

Walden received a special delivery during its 40th anniversary open house on Thursday, July 28. Twins Jacqueline and Sheridan Crisafulli, 11, raised money to purchase and donate 100 backpacks and school supplies for kids in foster care.

“We want to do this because it must be really hard to be a foster kid and not have your real Mom and Dad to be there to support you when you start out the school year,” wrote the girls in their letter asking family and friends to support the project.

“We are honored that Jacqueline and Sheridan chose to give foster children and youth the tools they need to start the school year,” said Walden CEO Teresa Stivers. “These backpacks are not only a gift to the children who receive them, they are also a reminder that every one of us can help prepare foster children and youth to thrive.”

Jacqueline and Sheridan first learned about Walden several years ago from their parents, who regularly attend Walden’s annual Wine D’Vine fundraiser. Their mother, Jennifer, explained that both girls became concerned that children in foster care didn’t have their parents to tuck them in or support them. The girls first gave to Walden in 2014, when they donated their birthday presents to foster children and youth.

Councilmembers Present Proclamation

City Councilmembers present Walden with proclamation

CEO Teresa Stivers and Foundation board members Art Candland and Dale Ganzow receive proclamation from Councilmember Chris Cate (District 6) and council representative Sheldon Zemen (District 7)

At the 40th anniversary open house, the girls met Councilmember Chris Cate (District 6) and council representative Sheldon Zemen (District 7). Cate and Zemen presented Walden with a proclamation recognizing Walden’s role in preparing children and youth to reach their full potential as members of the community.

Guests representing the public, nonprofit and private sectors enjoyed appetizers while learning about Walden’s history and impact on children and youth in foster care.

Children, Families Dazzled by Annual Disney Adventure

David could barely contain his excitement when he and his family arrived yesterday for Walden’s annual Disney adventure decked out in Mickey and Minnie t-shirts. When asked what they wanted to do, both David and his sister responded, “Ride the train.”

More than 100 foster children and youth, families and social work staff  from Walden attended the event. They enjoyed looking for Mickey and Minnie. Elsa from “Frozen” was also at the top of the list of favorites.

2016 marks the fourth year of the HOPE Foundation’s generous sponsorship of Walden’s trip to Disneyland.

Pictures from Disneyland

Family time at Disney

Family time at Disney

Foster children at youth walking in Disneyland

On the hunt for Mickey & Minnie

Exploring at Disney

Exploring at Disney

Photo of Supervisor Roberts presenting proclamation to Walden's Teresa Stivers and Arlene Lieberman

SD County Supervisors Honor Walden

Supervisor Ron Roberts honored Walden on Tuesday during the Board of  Supervisors meeting with a proclamation declaring “Walden Family Services Day” in honor of the agency’s 40th anniversary. In his remarks, Roberts called attention to children’s need for family and community, and the specialized training foster and adoptive families receive so that they can partner with Walden social work professionals. CEO Teresa Stivers and Governance Board Chair Arlene Lieberman received the proclamation on Walden’s  behalf.

Walden continues its 40th anniversary next Thursday, July 28, 3:00-5:00 p.m., with an open house. Enjoy light appetizers and cake, meet Walden families and staff, and find out how you can support efforts to help foster children and youth become productive members of our community. Bring a guest, and win prizes from Rubio’s or Nickel  City. Children are welcome. Free parking is available.

To RSVP, register online or call Bettina Rausa, Development and Special Events Manager, at 619-727-5887.

Walden Holds 40th Anniversary Open House

Join Walden on Thursday, July 28, 3:00-5:00 p.m., for an open house to celebrate 40 years of preparing foster children and youth to thrive. Guests will meet children and families served by the agency, and learn how social workers and local leaders support Walden’s vision of preparing every child to reach their full potential. This free community event will be held at Walden’s San Diego office located at 8525 Gibbs Drive, Suite 100.

Established in 1976, Walden took its inspiration from Walden Pond author Henry David Thoreau when the agency began operating residential group homes focused on preparing foster youth to become self-sufficient productive members of society. By 1983, Walden had recognized that children’s healthy development depended on positive relationships with family and community and began specializing in placing children in foster families as an alternative to group homes. In 2015, Walden helped more than 1,500 children, youth and families heal from trauma and build lasting relationships.

“We consistently see kids start to thrive once they feel safe and secure with family members and caregivers who reinforce their natural interests and abilities,” said CEO Teresa Stivers. Walden has become a recognized leader in training foster and adoptive families to care for infants, sibling groups and children with developmental disabilities, behavioral challenges and special healthcare needs.

In 2002, Walden responded to growing concerns that youth exiting foster care at age 18 struggled to succeed by launching the Independent Futures program. Youth in the program learned how to communicate effectively, develop healthy relationships and make positive decisions – skills most youth learn from family. The program has since evolved, and Walden is now the fourth largest provider of a transitional housing plus foster care program that enables youth to remain in care to pursue their education or steady employment.

Walden holds accreditation from CARF International, and has been recognized by Human Rights Campaign Foundation – All Children, All Families Campaign and Live Well San Diego.

To RSVP for the open house, register online or call Bettina Rausa, Development and Special Events Manager, at 619-727-5887.

Image of a woman steadying a little girl

2015 Impact Report Highlights How Families, Community Support Foster Children

San Diego (June 14, 2016)—Every child needs a family—and a community who provides opportunities for them to grow and thrive. In 2015, community investment allowed more than 1,500 children, youth and families to heal from trauma and develop relationships that prepare them to thrive. Flip through the Walden Family Services 2015 Social Impact Report to discover how your support for children and youth in the foster care system strengthens our community.

Child Advocates Join Walden Governance and Foundation Boards

San Diego, CA (June 7, 2016)— Walden Family Services, a nonprofit foster care, adoption, and youth services agency serving Southern California, recently welcomed Cheryl Doss and Cherie Enge, Esq., two child advocates to join the agency’s governance and foundation boards.

Picture of Cherie Enge

Cherie A. Enge, Esq.

“I enjoy seeing kids learn and creating opportunities to recognize their achievements, so I’ve always been active in education and mentoring programs,” said Enge, an attorney who has volunteered extensively with the San Diego County Bar Association’s Children at Risk Committee, The Links Achiever Program, and formerly the Education Committee of the Urban League of San Diego. “I look forward to working with the board and staff to build support for Walden’s programs and services throughout the county.”

Enge owns and operates a law office in Carlsbad, where she specializes in insurance defense litigation. Enge also has extensive experience with civil litigation, and has successfully represented clients in the areas of personal injury, product liability, property damage and medical malpractice. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from University of California San Diego and earned her law degree at Hasting College of Law in San Francisco. Enge will serve on Walden’s governance board.

Doss joins Walden’s foundation board of directors after serving more than a decade as the controller and human resources manager of Trust Employee Administration & Management (TEAM), which manages the employee and human resources services for several thousand trusts benefiting children with disabilities. Doss also spent her early career with the County of San Diego Child Welfare Services, where she worked closely with foster youth and their families. Now retired, Doss holds leadership positions with her church and several nonprofit organizations.

“During my career, I worked with families to plan for the long-term care for their children with disabilities. Children in foster care don’t have families who are able to prepare them for the future, so we need organizations like Walden to connect foster youth with families and mentors and provide them with the resources to succeed,” said Doss.

“Walden is fortunate to welcome two board members who have shown such dedication to advocating for children and youth,” said Teresa Stivers, CEO of Walden Family Services. “Their insight and expertise are a welcome addition to Walden’s governance and foundation boards, as is their advocacy on behalf of children and youth in foster care.”

About Walden Family Services
Walden Family Services provides foster care, adoption, and youth services for children and families throughout Southern California. Walden addresses the unique needs of all children who experience neglect and abuse, including those who are medically fragile, have developmental disabilities and behavioral or mental health challenges, large sibling groups, and youth who identify as LGBTQ. The organization also provides transitional housing and programs for youth who have aged out of the foster care system, family visitation centers, and parenting programs that focus on stopping the cycle of child abuse. Founded in 1976, Walden Family Services is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in San Diego. For more information, visit

Other members of the Walden Family Services Governance Board of Directors include Arlene Lieberman (Chair), Executive Director, Barney & Barney Foundation; Leslie Levinson (Vice Chair), CFO, The Campanile Foundation; Jaye Connolly-LaBelle (Treasurer), COO, RippleNami; Sheila Ferguson (Secretary), Finance Professional; Stephanie Brownell, CFO, Hunter Industries; Denise Jackson, President& CEO, Balboa Travel Management; and, Rajah Gainey, Individual and Corporate Gifts Manager, Promises2Kids.

The Walden Family Services Foundation Board of Directors include Art Candland (Chair), AJW Facilities & Construction; Dale Ganzow (Vice Chair), Sales Manager, San Diego Business Journal;
Lisa Betyar (Treasurer), Partner, Lindsay & Brownell, CPAs; Cheryl Goodman (Secretary)CEO & Founder, Social, Global, Mobile PR; Dalia Cohen, Community Advocate; Kristi Craft, Community Advocate; Cheryl Doss, Community Advocate; James Lauth, Founding Partner, Beamer Lauth Steinley & Bond, LLP; Chris Powers, Vice President, CBRE; Jorge Ruiz de Castilla, President, The Chip Merchant; and, Karen Van Ness, Real Estate Associate, Pacific Sotheby’s Realty.

Running4Families Team Member Takes on First Marathon

Elia Madera started running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon when she first started working at Walden Family Services in 2013. This year, she’s taking on all 26.2 miles of the full marathon.

Find out what motivates Elia to keep running, and how your donation to Elia and the Running4Families team benefits youth in foster care.

Spring Soiree Raises Over $25,000 for Foster Youth

San Diego, CA (May 23, 2016) –  In celebration of Foster Care Month, Walden Family Services hosted its Spring Soirée May 19 at Pamplemousse Grille. The event raised over $25,000 to fund programs that prevent child neglect and abuse, match kids with loving foster and adoptive families, and prepare young people to become productive members of the community.

Spring Soirée Presenting Sponsors Jo Hannah and Karen Hoehn of Hoehn Jaguar Land Rover of Carlsbad

Spring Soirée Presenting Sponsors Jo Hannah and Karen Hoehn of Hoehn Jaguar Land Rover of Carlsbad

Thirty guests attended the intimate dinner, which featured an elegant four-course dinner with wine pairings by award-winning executive chef Jeffrey Strauss. Notable guests included Ron and Mary Alice Brady, Caroline and Nico Nierenberg, and presenting sponsors Karen and Jo Hannah Hoehn of Hoehn Jaguar Land Rover of Carlsbad.

Rajah Gainey, a former foster youth and Walden board member, shared his story about entering foster care at two weeks old, then re-entering foster care at age 7 after his adoptive mother suffered a stroke.

“I came to Walden I was 10 years old, and right away I knew the place was different,” said Gainey.  “When you’re in foster care, they document every negative thing you do, and people think they know you based on your file. At Walden, they knew what was in my file but they didn’t lead with that. People were more inviting, social workers visited me, and my foster family was great.” Gainey credits Walden for seeing his potential, helping him recover from the trauma of broken relationships, and connecting him with a mentor who he maintains a relationship with to this day.

Rajah Gainey and Pamplemousse Grille Executive Chef Jeffrey Strauss check out the Land Rover

Rajah Gainey and Pamplemousse Grille Executive Chef Jeffrey Strauss check out the Land Rover

“We’re incredibly proud of Rajah, and grateful that he continues to be an advocate for foster youth who need extra support to develop the skills and relationships we all depend on to lead successful, fulfilling lives,” said Teresa Stivers, CEO of Walden Family Services. “We are also grateful to the philanthropists and champions who attended Spring Soirée so that more foster youth have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.”

About Walden Family Services
Walden Family Services provides prevention, foster care and adoption services for children and families throughout Southern California. Walden connects children—infants, sibling groups and children with special needs—with loving foster and adoptive families. We also provide transitional housing and services for youth who choose to remain in foster care to pursue their education or employment, and provide birth families with training to develop nurturing parent-child relationships and break the cycle of neglect and abuse. Founded in 1976, Walden Family Services is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in San Diego. For more information, visit

Jeffrey Strauss(c) poses with Kathryn Stephens (l) and Walden Governance board chair Arlene Lieberman (r) wearing his "Real Housewives" apron

Jeffrey Strauss(c) poses with Kathryn Stephens (l) and Walden Governance board chair Arlene Lieberman (r) wearing his “Real Housewives” apron

Ron and Mary Alice Brady

Ron and Mary Alice Brady

LA Event Kicks Off National Foster Care Month

Comedian and RaiseAChild Emcee Alec Mapa

Comedian and RaiseAChild Emcee Alec Mapa

Walden Family Services kicked off National Foster Care Month on May 1 at the RaiseAChild Honors  in Los  Angeles. Comedian and emcee Alec Mapa opened the event with a heartwarming story about his life as an adoptive father before introducing this year’s honorees:

  • Celebrity health and fitness expert Jillian  Michaels and her wife, Heidi Rhoades
  • Adoptive parents Deputy  Sheriff (Ret.) Gina Barker-Foster and Sgt. Dana Michele Foster, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department
  • KTLA5 News Executive Producer Kimberly Cornell

This year’s event theme, “MakeAHome,” highlighted the role adoptive parents in creating a stable, loving environment for foster children who are unable to return to their birth families. Several LA-based  interior designers created stunning room designs, including an office designed by Roxy Sowlaty for Walden.

Other notable guests included actors Jon Cryer and  Lisa Joyner. The couple are also adoptive parents, and Joyner herself was adopted.

Image of Kimberly Cornell

KTLA5 News Executive Producer and honoree Kimberly Cornell

Image of Kermit the Frog

Kermit the Frog at the Historic Jim Henson Company Lot

Picture of adoptive parents Claire Davis and Virginia Banker

Walden champions and adoptive parents Claire Davis and Virginia Banker at RaiseAChild Honors

Image of actor Jon Cryer

Actor Jon Cryer on the red carpet at RaiseAChild Honors

2016 Copper for Kids Check Presentation

“Copper for Kids” Raises $2,500 for Walden Family Services

2016 Copper for Kids Check Presentation.
Pictured L to R: Tracy Threlfall, Bonni Parsons Mitchell, Teresa Stivers, Connie Stevenson and Karl Kirke

Walden Family Services received a generous donation of $2,500 from the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) San Diego Chapter, as a result of members’ fundraising efforts through the Copper for Kids program. Copper for Kids recycles excess copper materials and uses the funds to benefit nonprofit organizations that assist foster children and youth in making successful transitions to adulthood.

“We greatly appreciate the PHCC Association of San Diego and their Copper for Kids program, which will benefit children and youth in the foster care system locally,”said Teresa Stivers, CEO of Walden Family Services. “Through this generosity and outreach, children build lifelong relationships with foster and adoptive families, and young people exit foster care prepared for college, career and community life.”

“PHCC contractors are environmentally conscious and most recycle as a standard business practice. They now have an additional realized benefit of supporting children in our community,” said Connie Stevenson, President of the Board of Directors for PHCC Association, San Diego.

Every $5,000 raised provides children and youth with family and caring adults who help them to grow and thrive. “By connecting children with forever families, they can reach their full potential and break the cycle of foster care,” said Stevenson.

According to, San Diego County has nearly 3,500 children in the foster care system. Research shows that children who exit foster care without a family or strong support network are less likely to graduate from high school, and more likely to become pregnant before age 21, incarcerated, or homeless.

Media Contact

Teresa Stivers
(619) 727-5881

Walden in the News