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ECS Para Las Familias


ECS Para Las Familias (PLF) provides mental health services to low-income children ages 0-5 and their families or caregivers in the South Bay and North County regions of San Diego. These counseling services work with pre-school children with behavioral problems as a result of having experienced trauma or toxic stress such as divorce, illness, accidents, neglect, violence in the home, or drug abuse. PLF utilizes attachment-based therapy, an approach which focuses the relationship or connection between a child and caregiver and works to rebuild or strengthen the emotional bond which was disrupted or damaged due to the trauma or stress.


Severe stress early in life can have long-term consequences for a child’s learning, behavior, physical and mental health, and relationships, specifically their ability to trust and relate to others. It slows the growth of the brain cortex (the region of the brain responsible for memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thinking, language, and consciousness), which can lead to a lower IQ and a decreased ability to regulate emotions. Children who repeatedly experience stress often grow up to be adults who suffer from depression and exhibit unhealthy behaviors and addictions such as alcohol abuse, drug use, and smoking. Without therapeutic intervention, they may be unable to ever attach to or have feelings of empathy for another human being.

PLF therapists meet regularly with children their parents or caregivers for up to six months. The therapy, which often utilizes puppets and play-therapy, helps parents become more understanding and emotionally available for their children. Therapists work with children to help them transform any negative beliefs they have developed about themselves or their experiences. Parents learn how to talk to their children about what frightens them, how to respond to tantrums, and how to set limits and boundaries that provide comfort.


Other services provided by PLF include screening, assessment, school observation, teacher/provider consultation and parenting classes. PLF partners with South Bay Community Services and ECS Head Start programs for referrals. Trained, bilingual therapists who are licensed or license eligible provide necessary services at the easily-accessible PLF Center or in the child’s home, school or preschool site. With a focus on helping the entire family, PLF staff work directly with many community organizations to refer clients as needed to nutritional, vocational, health care and homeless services.

ECS Para Las Familias's services are provided at no cost, and no client will ever be turned away due to income status. This program is funded by San Diego County and Healthy Development Services and serves nearly 300 children and their families each year.