As the COVID-19 pandemic comes to its natural conclusion, many of us are left with the overwhelming realization that life is precious and have a deep sense of gratitude to those who helped us weather the storm.

Family, whether biological or brought together through fate, is integral to one’s overall well-being and sense of safety in difficult times. No one knows this better than Kern Bridges Youth Homes, a Bakersfield-based social work organization that aims to link children and young adults with foster and adoptive families.

Since opening its doors in 1987, the organization has worked to build upon its practice, expanding from operating solely as a foster family agency to incorporating a short-term residential treatment program and community education program. It is clear that the workers' dedication to the community has driven this expansion. Despite the rapid evolution of Kern Bridges, it has remained loyal to its mission.

When speaking with Carrie Wombacher, the director of intensive services foster care (ISFC), she remarked that the organization has gained trust within Bakersfield because of close and personal interaction within the community.

“When you call Kern Bridges, you will speak to someone here in Bakersfield. Not some recording from an agency based in Los Angeles or Sacramento. That’s what makes Kern Bridges so different from other organizations,” said Wombacher.

Even as the pandemic has roared on, the team has done its best to remain active through regular Zoom support groups, with its roughly 35 current resource families and their youth. Additionally, it strives to address the mental and emotional toll the isolation has taken on everyone involved.

One aspect of the work done at Kern Bridges that is emphasized by staff and resource parents is the implementation of trauma-informed care.

Marina Hernandez, an ISFC social worker on site, frequently works in crisis situations with youth who have experienced substance abuse issues, school suspensions or expulsions, and several other behavioral challenges. Addressing the root causes of this behavior is paramount to appropriate treatment and training.

“Trauma-informed care means realizing the impact of trauma and understanding that we must respond to that trauma delicately and selectively,” said Hernandez.

Kern Bridges Youth Home’s services are designed to find families for children while offering comprehensive treatment and training. It is clear that it is an asset that Bakersfield desperately needs.

For more information or to reach out about services offered by Kern Bridges Youth Home or becoming a foster or adoptive family, call 661-396-2301. Kern Bridges is located at 1321 Stine Road.

Kaleigh Day is graduating Cal State Bakersfield with a bachelor's degree in English with an emphasis in education. She is a features writer at The Runner and continues to have the privilege of highlighting community figures and organizations.