La Cañada couple give $1M toward infant mental health

Mindy and Gene Stein, pictured at a Descanso Gardens benefit. The couple donated $1 million to establish the Stein Tikun Olam Infant-Family Mental Health Initiative at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
(Photo by Jane Napier Neely)

Longtime La Cañada Flintridge residents and philanthropists Mindy and Gene Stein, through their Tikun Olam Foundation, have made a $1 million gift to establish the Stein Tikun Olam Infant-Family Mental Health Initiative at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

“The terms mental health and mental illness sometimes have a stigma in our culture, and most people don’t realize that mental health in infants and children is a real public health issue,” Gene Stein said. “The experiences that children have in the early months and years of life make an enormous impact on a child’s brain development and future success.”

The Steins’ gift will be used to support families struggling to bond with their newborn during an extended hospitalization for their child just after birth. The program it establishes will allow the hospital to provide support for parents as their babies transition home from the Newborn and Infant Critical Care and outpatient care in the high-risk infant follow-up, each of which treat large numbers of infants. It will also support additional training for staff members who serve this patient population and their families.

Marian E. Williams, inaugural director for the newly formed program said the hospital is extremely grateful for the Steins’ gift and for their ongoing support to the Behavioral Health program there.

“Their sustained philanthropic gifts laid the foundation for this new Infant-Family Mental Health Initiative, by enabling our staff to expand and deepen expertise in early childhood mental health and trauma-informed therapeutic practices,” Williams stated.

The Steins’ gift builds on their impassioned years of support for early childhood mental health training and services at the hospital. The funds will support four psychologists and two home visiting therapists in caring for families with infants served by CHLA. The gift will also support training on infant-family mental health and trauma-informed care for medical professionals.

“Our goal is to educate parents that their child’s social and emotional development determines their mental health, which is as important as their physical development,” Mindy Stein said. “Our willingness to give this gift now was based on the trust we have with the CHLA team, the work they do and their ongoing training of the people they work with. We want to continue to give them that opportunity.”

The Steins, whose children attended La Cañada Flintridge public schools and Flintridge Prep, have been supportive and involved LCF members reaching out not only with volunteer efforts but generous financial assistance.

Among their many endeavors, they have supported the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation, Verdugo Hills Hospital Foundation, Descanso Gardens’ Sturt Haaga Gallery and Flintridge Prep.

“They are such caring people,” said Peter Bachmann, headmaster at Prep. “They so generously gave our school amazing support not only with their organizational expertise with our capital campaign but they also served in many capacities in our fundraising efforts. Mindy was also part of our board of trustees.”

Deborah Weirick, executive director of the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation, said the Steins have been involved with the organization for 20 years. Gene Stein was a founding member of its endowment fund.

“Gene and Mindy are pillars of our community and are very astute philanthropists,” Weirick said, “so I am not surprised to learn of their exceptionally generous gift to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.”

Gene Stein serves as vice chairman and a director of Capital Strategy Research, a unit of the Capital Group Companies, a global investment management company. He is also senior vice president of Capital World investors, and a director of Capital Research and Management Company. He is a trustee of the Jewish Community Foundation and also a board member of Pitzer College and the Los Angeles Opera.

Mindy Stein began her career as a speech therapist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in 1976. She is a member of the board of directors of Children’s Bureau where she served as chair from 2010 to 2013. She has chaired the development committee for Verdugo Hills Hospital Foundation and was vice chair of Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena.

In 2001, the Steins founded the Tikun Olam Foundation, a support foundation at the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. Tikun Olam is Hebrew for “healing the world,” and the mission of the foundation is to help vulnerable children by providing support to both the child and family, with a primary focus on promoting early childhood mental health and the prevention of child abuse.