Chanel Boutakidis: Finding Safe Homes For Kids In Need

By Elena Epstein

Chanel Boutakidis, pictured here with her husband and sons, is executive director of Five Acres, a nonprofit dedicated to advocacy for kids in crisis and family preservation. PHOTO COURTESY CHANEL BOUTAKIDIS

Chanel Boutakidis, MA, MFT, pictured here with her husband and sons, is chief executive officer of Five Acres, a nonprofit dedicated to advocacy for kids in crisis. PHOTO COURTESY CHANEL BOUTAKIDIS

Tucked away 
on a tree-lined street in
 Pasadena, Five Acres 
is a beautiful sanctuary devoted to giving voice 
to children in foster 
care. The 126-year-old nonprofit, once an orphanage, has evolved 
into an organization devoted to finding safe 
and permanent family solutions for more than 8,000 children and their families throughout L.A. County. As the chief executive officer, Chanel Boutakidis, MA, MFT, is a tireless advocate for children in need of a safe family.

What are some of the misconceptions in our community about kids in foster care?

Los Angeles County has the largest number of kids living in foster care: 20,000. Half of these kids are under the age of 5. The perception is that most foster children are teenagers, and that’s not true. Another misconception is that most kids in foster care are from physically abusive homes. We see many kids who have been impacted by neglect, which is closely related to living in poverty. Their parents love them, but may not have the resources to ensure their wellbeing.

Tell us about the permanency campaign launching this month.

We want every child to have a safe, loving family forever. The first step is investing in programs in the community that give young parents the necessary tools. By providing education, counseling and emotional support, we can help keep families together safely. In situations where there is abuse and neglect, the best option is to find a compatible foster-to-adopt family. Our goal is to raise awareness about the kids in our own community who need a loving home.

Who is Boy 5A?

He is a unique work of art – a four-foot rendition of a 4-year- old boy constructed by a Pasadena sculptor.
He will be installed in seven different lobbies, courtyards and main office buildings and “fostered” by Five Acres corporate partners. Boy 5A will be on public view until the end of December, when he will be “adopted.” Boy 5A represents the 20,000 kids waiting to have a home.

Tell us about the kids at Five Acres.

They are incredibly resilient. They are not damaged or broken. They have so much potential. Many have not experienced typical childhood moments. They don’t have pajamas, have never baked cookies with an adult, never been to the beach or in a swimming pool. What they need is a meaningful relationship with a caring adult, and they will thrive.

What are some ways the community can help?

If you have a few hours to give, come volunteer as a special friend/mentor. It means so much to these kids to see adults sharing their experiences with them. They don’t have someone to go to the movies with or spend the holidays with. A few hours of your time can have a lasting impact on a child. If you have a year, you can become a foster parent or respite parent for a child who has just been removed from his home. And if you have a lifetime, become an adoptive family and watch these kids grow and reach their full potential. You can change a child’s life.

For more information on Five Acres, visit www.5acres.org.

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