I recently had the chance to sit down to lunch with Monica Fyfe, MFT, founder of Our Village.
Our Village is a 503c non-profit organization offering group based social skills support for any family that has a child managing any kind of social deficit (including social anxiety, spectrum disorders, ADHD, etc).
I’ve known Monica as a skilled child therapist in private practice in the South Bay. I was so excited to hear about big growth steps that were happening with the non-profit she started. Our Village started out operating out of schools and different kinds of community centers and I saw they recently got to the point that they needed to open up their own space.
So I wanted to know more!
As a business owner, I know that setting up legal entities and coordinating a group endeavor requires some big inspiration. It’s not something you casually do.
Monica was inspired…
When I asked Monica about the inspiration behind creating a non-profit, she told me that she always wanted to start a charity. Just like other people want to write a book or run a marathon in their life, she wanted to start a non-profit.
Over the course of her career as an ABA Behavior Therapist, Play Therapist and Marriage and Family Therapist, Monica worked with the non-profit Walk With Sally in our South Bay community. Walk with Sally is an organization that offers “individualized mentoring and community support services to empower children experiencing trauma through a parent, guardian or sibling’s cancer journey”. In working with this organization, Monica saw, “this is how it works, there is a feasible way of helping families!”
The History of Our Village
Monica, as she specializes in working with children on the Autism Spectrum or diagnosed with ADHD, saw that there was a gap in community support for this population. She said she saw there were recreational programs in our communities (which were wonderful!). However, no programs that were skill based. Or that would be able to offer support to families whose children required a little extra support around social learning.
When Monica started Our Village in 2015, she and her team ran groups in schools across the South Bay, in group psychotherapy practice spaces and community spaces. She was also running and still runs her own private practice, seeing clients privately.
At first, groups were private pay only. Now Our Village is vendored with Harbor Regional Center and Westside Regional Center. This allows greater access to specialized education for their clinicians. It also gives greater access to families of all backgrounds who would benefit from this kind of social support.
What are the basics of the programs?
Monica is very mindful of the scheduling choices families have to make in their after school activities. And of the choices families make in selecting the best intervention for their child. This is one of the many reasons that Our Village uses only evidence-based or empirically supported programs, so families can feel confident in their time and intervention choice for their child. Our Village also had all their PEERS Teen and Young Adult leaders, trained and certified through the UCLA PEERS (Program for Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills) program.
In addition to being run by trained facilitators, these facilitators are often Educational Therapists or Board Certified Behavioral Analysts or School Psychologists wanting to give back to the community, so they are highly knowledgable and skilled at working with kids and families in this way.
The group programs incoportate elements of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, use of the socratic method of teaching, aspects of Integrated Play Groups (IPG) and Peer Mediated Social Skills Group for Children.
There are opportunities for siblings to participate, for group members to graduate into being “expert players” who can join in groups to support “novice players”.
Another interesting component of Our Village are “Sibshops“. These workshops are designed specifically to offer support to siblings of children with special social needs.
Concurrent groups for “social coaches” are also available. These are parents, older siblings, teen mentors or caregivers so those around the child with special needs can offer support outside the group as well.
The Newest Development:
In 2019, Our Village found their very own home in Redondo Beach!! This was a massive move and was much needed as the program was expanding.
If it is not already there, Monica told me that in a very short time, Our Village would have a two way mirror. This would allow caregivers to observe their children in social and play settings. It is a great opportunity to gain insight on how their children interact with others naturally.
What is next for Our Village?
Pretty soon, Monica said that there would be a PEERS based Dating Boot Camp for young adults. In addition, PEERS for Careers is on deck for those who have to work harder to make connections in social environments when they are farther along in their life path.
Isn’t that exciting?!
I love all the ways that Monica’s vision is coming to life. And, I’m thrilled to be a part of a community that gets to benefit from her hard work, generosity and kind heart.