“El Nido was an agency that saved my life, by creating a belief in myself and what I can do as a positive force”
Diane M. lived the kind of life in which suicide was never far from her mind. A childhood victim of sexual abuse by a grandfather, Diane was also afflicted with schizo-affective disorder, a persistent mental illness that includes severe and major depressive episodes and may include delusions, hallucinations and psychosis. She grew up in East L.A., mostly away from home, as a drug addict and gang member. The father of three of her four children died from gunshot wounds delivered by the LAPD. She was in constant trouble with Los Angeles’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and her children were taken away from her and placed in different foster homes.
After bouts with numerous social service agencies that produced no positive results for her, and seven other agencies which refused to take her on as a client, she came to El Nido Family Centers. She was immediately impressed by the kind, sensitive and responsive reception she received, and that she was able to see a counselor immediately instead of having to make an appointment to come back again. The counselor she saw was Cynthia Arias, at that time a Master of Social Work student intern. To Diane, Cynthia was a beacon of hope, convincing her that she was a special, unique person worthy of being saved. Working with Cynthia, Diane was able to stay on the medication which ameliorated her schizoaffective disorder, something she had been previously unable and unwilling to do.
Diane knows that El Nido has transformed many lives, but to her “El Nido was an agency that saved my life,” creating a belief in herself and what she could do as a positive force. She was able to properly order her priorities and as a result, within eight months after she started working with El Nido, her children were returned to her by the same judge who had earlier sent them to separate foster homes. Manuel and Barbara Morales, her father and stepmother, were instrumental in keeping the children together for a successful family reunification.
Today Diane is a highly- regarded and respected substance abuse counselor employed by California’s Department of Mental Health, working with incarcerated men, women who have lost custody of their children, homeless street people with mental illness and drug addicts. Three of her children work for the County of Los Angeles and the youngest is still in school. Social work runs in Diane’s family – her father retired from his job at AT&T at age 50, went back to school to earn his MSW degree and is now a mental health rehabilitation specialist working with transitional- age youth. The Morales family is dedicated to transforming the lives of individuals in need.