The Parent Support Group helps empower parents to better advocate for their children, request services and understand their health insurance.
PUBLISHED: January 3, 2022 at 6:00 a.m. in the Press-Telegram
Editor’s note: This is the last of three excerpts from the forthcoming book, “Adelaide’s Legacy: Tichenor Orthopedic Clinic for Children.” Today’s excerpt deals with how Tichenor’s Parent Support Group helps families, what is ahead for Tichenor Clinic and what Adelaide Tichenor would say about her dream becoming an iconic institution in Long Beach.
By Karen Robes Meeks, Contributing writer
For Mirtha Arriaga, the road to Tichenor Clinic began with questions that needed to be answered.Top Articleshttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.493.0_en.html#goog_377986366https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.493.0_en.html#goog_1034682950https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.493.0_en.html#goog_2034436606
The mother of five – whose children ranged from ages 1 to 14 – sought ways to help her two children with autism, but meetings she attended at other places were filled with acronyms and technical terms that would make a parent’s head spin.
“We (would) go to a meeting and not even understand what they’re talking about,” Arriaga said. “We know our child, but we don’t know what terms they use. We do not know the legal process. There are so many questions out there. We didn’t have the information.”
It wasn’t until her family began using the services at Tichenor Clinic in 2017 that Mirtha and her husband found out about the clinic’s Parent Support Group. The couple soon became faithful participants, taking turns making the 20-mile drive from Maywood to Long Beach to attend the bilingual meetings twice a month.
“We couldn’t miss it,” Arriaga said. “We wanted to be there.”
Soon after attending the group meetings, the couple were empowered.
They learned how to better advocate for their children at Harbor Regional Center, the local agency contracted by the California Department of Developmental Services to serve those with disabilities, and at school with Individualized Education Program documents created for special education-eligible public school children. The couple also learned how to request services and understand their health insurance.
“Before, I wouldn’t even know how to request records or how to request a service; it was really hard for me and I didn’t even understand,” Arriaga said. “I learned how to request therapy at home. So now we have therapy at home.”
Mirtha was like many parents coming to the clinic who struggle with navigating a complicated special education system.
Their search for answers and resources inspired the clinic’s Administration and Family Services director, Mayra Jimenez, to expand the Parent Support Group in 2008.
“I felt so lucky (to be) working here,” said Jimenez, who cares for a son with a disability. “I could learn a little bit more or maybe talk to the therapist and ask them, ‘What do you recommend for my son? Can I use my insurance for this?’ But even I had some difficulties getting the services that I needed, so I couldn’t imagine how other families were also struggling.”
Jimenez brought the idea to clinic Executive Director Lori DeLaney, who encouraged her to develop the pilot program. The group went from 10 parents meeting once a month in 2008 to the 50 to 60 parents who currently meet once a week. Parents have since branched out into their own support groups, including one dedicated to parents of autistic children.
“We started this trying to share resources,” Jimenez said, “and we used a lot of the therapists’ expertise here at the clinic to guide the parents and get them some information.”
In 2013, Jimenez found out about the Learning Rights Law Center, which organized TIGER training classes. TIGER – which stands for Training Individuals for Grassroots Education Reform – is a program that teaches parents about special education laws and how to advocate for their children.
When TIGER started at the clinic in 2014, the class was the most attended Parent Support Group meeting, with about 80 people applying for 40 available spots. Soon, the group started offering beginner and intermediate sessions and “Different Thinkers, Different Learners,” a class exploring the various categories or diagnoses eligible for special education.
The Parent Support Group has been so successful that the program has incorporated the remote meetings the clinic was forced to adopt when the coronavirus pandemic started in the spring of 2020. When the pandemic closed the clinic’s physical location, the group migrated to Zoom video conferencing. At first, Jimenez was skeptical. Would parents want to deal with technology? Would they even have internet access?
When the clinic resumed the Parent Support Group online, 75 parents tuned in to hear Mariana Leñero Solar, a neuropsychologist and psychoeducational consultant at the Learning Rights Law Center and one of the clinic’s board members, discuss emotional help and coping strategies for kids.
“I can see the benefit of having them online because they don’t have to travel,” Jimenez said. “They can still listen while they’re with their kids.”
Another benefit to meeting remotely has been the ability to simultaneously translate the meetings into Spanish, something Arriaga. a regular attendee, especially appreciates.
“Having that ability to have someone who’s willing to help us in Spanish, that was the best thing for us because also I can encourage my husband to participate and encourage other family members to go and participate and get this information to help my kids, because this is the whole family,” she said. “We have to work together to get our kids to reach their potential, to be independent one day.”
The Parent Support Group plans to feature in-person and remote meetings in the future to reach more parents, Jimenez said.
“For the clinic to be open to have this Parent Support Group,” she said, “it opens a really big door for everyone to come in and feel welcome.”
What the future holds for Tichenor Clinic
When Adelaide Tichenor died on May 10, 1924, she staked her fortune on a dream she never fully realized herself: a clinic that would serve children who needed it the most.
Her final wish – embedded in her will – had been for her money to do “the greatest good to the greatest number.” She wanted her dream to have longevity and impact.
Nearly 100 years later, Adelaide’s dream of mending children remains steady and true. Since opening in 1926, Tichenor Clinic has adapted to meet the ever-evolving needs of its underserved community, from its early years of battling polio to the challenges of COVID-19 — and all of the changes in medicine over the decades.
In the last century, the clinic has:
- Hosted 676,675 patient visits from children at little to no cost, regardless of race, creed or color.
- Grown to include nearly a dozen programs, ranging from orthopedic care and swim therapy to speech-language pathology and a Parent Support Group.
- Expanded its community reach with a board of directors that range in knowledge and expertise.
- Partnered with local hospitals and organizations, including a major affiliation with Miller Children’s Hospital.
- Adopted technology and creative strategies to serve more children.
- Built a lasting legacy that continues to be a significant resource to families.
Tichenor Clinic continues to build on that legacy.
In late 2020, the clinic introduced a new logo — a heart embedded in the “O” of Tichenor’s name — to better reflect the clinic’s family-centric approach to care.
The clinic also saw a major change in leadership this year, with the retirement of longtime Executive Director Lori DeLaney and the introduction of Kathryn Miles as the facility’s new leader. Miles, who previously served as executive director of Jewish Family & Children’s Service in Long Beach, brings more than two decades of experience in nonprofit management and her passion for working with those with developmental disabilities.
“I am passionate about the mission of the organization and the critical services that are provided to children and their families,” said Miles, a Southern California native and a Cal State Long Beach alumna. “The organization has such a rich history in Long Beach and its impact has been profound.”
For DeLaney, Tichenor Clinic will always be a part of helping children live better lives.
“What matters most to me is that families and kids are cared for in a welcoming, supportive environment where their needs are met, and we all work together at what matters most,” she said. “It’s really a privilege to work here and see the courage of the children and what they overcome, and the courage of the families. It’s a joy to see the accomplishments and the drive to overcome and to become all that they can be.”
Tichenor Clinic has been able to operate without government funding, relying on grants, private donations and creativity to maximize its operations. If a new need arises in the community, the clinic can react more quickly because they are not beholden to public funding, said Dr. Charles Durnin, who has served Tichenor Clinic as an orthopedist and medical director for more than four decades.
Durnin sees Adelaide Tichenor’s vision of treating the whole child remaining true.
To him, it’s not about just treating a broken leg or a deformity. It’s also about helping the whole child, especially one without access to quality care.
“I feel that there will always be a need for the clinic,” Durnin said.
As funding for medical programs continues to be a challenge and children fall through the cracks, the care provided at Tichenor Clinic is just as important now as it was nearly 100 years ago.
The clinic is crucial in a city such as Long Beach, where insurance issues may make it harder for families to get physical therapy because it does not completely cover costs.
“So Tichenor really has a huge role in this kind of filling in and taking over that ongoing care,” said Dr. Torin Cunningham, medical director of the Orthopedic Center at Miller Children’s Hospital.
Providing that care means stretching more of Tichenor Clinic’s own resources to meet the needs of the community.
“It’s hard because we obviously also have limited resources as well,” said Dr. Emory Chang, Tichenor Clinic’s medical director since 2012. “We’re trying to figure out ways we can try to adjust and still deliver the same quality of care to as many kids as possible.”
Fundraising will be key to the clinic’s ability to help more children, said Jean Bixby Smith, a past president of the clinic’s board of directors.
The clinic has the physical capacity but not enough financial capacity to hire more people.
“We would like to be able to maximize (services),” she said, “and the only way we can do that is by fund development.”
Tichenor Clinic remains a force for good, because those in the community continue to care about Adelaide Tichenor’s legacy.
What would Adelaide Tichenor, a woman ahead of her time and the “Mother of Long Beach Clubs,” say about the future of her beloved clinic?
She would hope that Tichenor Clinic continues being a gift to Long Beach, a place she called home the last 30 years of her life, a city that she helped to shape and nurture with art, literature and philanthropy.
She would be pleased at how her dream has been able to move and grow with the city, ever evolving yet never straying from the mission of helping children, that the dream – her dream – remains alive.
Read the book to find out what happened to these children
Tichenor Clinic doctors, nurses and administrators have worked wonders for hundreds of children in the institution’s history. Heartwarming stories about some of them are written about In Karen Robes Meeks’ book, “Adelaide’s Legacy: Tichenor Orthopedic Clinic for Children.” Read the book to find out what happens to:
- Richard McBride, who was 10 years old when he got polio and was told, before he went to Tichenor Clinic, that he would not survive.
- Victor Perez, 5, who had leg pain that was so persistent he couldn’t sleep.
- Owen, 4, who had birth abnormalities that affected his neck muscles and caused his head to tilt down.
- Kelsey Heredia, who was 6 months old when she started having seizures that stunted her development.
- Oscar Lopez, now 15, who has been attending therapy sessions to overcome developmental delays since he was a baby.
- Monica Lara, who has Down syndrome, autism and hearing loss.
Getting a copy
“Adelaide’s Legacy: Tichenor Orthopedic Clinic for Children” will be available for a donation to the clinic.
If you are interested, contact Executive Director Kathy Miles, 562-597-3696 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Development Director Stelet Kim, 562-597-3696 or email@example.com. Donations may also be made at tichenorclinic.org/donate with a note in the comment box indicating your interest in the book.