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Campus a Haven for Abused Children

Times Staff Writer

In the battle to shield children from abuse and neglect, the therapeutic preschool program at Casa Pacifica is on the front lines. Children arrive at the preschool, one of several programs run by the Ventura County shelter for youngsters, removed from their families by the court, with physical and emotional scars.

Often they are malnourished and developmentally delayed. Many are violent and aggressive and unsuitable for placement in public preschools.

Teachers and others seek to provide a refuge from the chaos, to restore some order to the children’s upended lives. “We just absolutely adore these little guys here,” said Justine Medeiros, who does fundraising for the facility near Camarillo. “It’s just so wonderful to see them with smiles on their faces.”

The Casa Pacifica preschool has received $10,000 from the Los Angeles Times Holiday Campaign, which raises money for nonprofit groups serving low-income children and youths in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. The money has been particularly helpful because the program does not tap state or federal funds, Medeiros said.

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“We raise all of the money to keep the preschool on campus,” she said. “Everyone around here was dancing when we got the check.”

Casa Pacifica has been operating for a decade in Ventura County, tucked below the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains and spread over 23 acres south of Camarillo. The preschool is one of three schools that serve children placed in the facility’s 24-hour care programs.

Fully accredited, the preschool is open to youngsters ages 2 to 5. Each child undergoes a comprehensive assessment that assists teachers in creating individualized instruction and helps in planning for school placement after youngsters leave.

“What we are trying to do is ready them to make the transition into normal daily life,” Medeiros said. “It’s an amazing facility.”

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HOW TO GIVE

The annual Holiday Campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a fund of the Tribune Foundation. Donations supporting the campaign to help disadvantaged children and youths should be sent to: L.A. Times Holiday Campaign, File 56986, Los Angeles, CA 90074-6986. Do not send cash.

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Credit card donations can be made at: www.latimes.com/holidaycampaign. For more information, call (800) LATIMES, Ext. 75771.


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