You may have heard of the A. Miriam Jamison Children’s Center, but you probably don’t know everything that it provides for our city’s most sensitive residents.
The Center is a 24-hour emergency shelter for youth in Kern County and while the average stay is only five or six days, the staff works hard to have a positive, permanent impact in their lives.
Program Director Joy Johnson said, “we try to make it as kid friendly, and really love on them as much as possible.”
“We really are here to assist the children in any way possible, we care about the children, we care about their well being, that’s really what we’re here for and to love the children and let them know they’re special.” She said that no matter what their situation is, “while they’re here they’re going to feel loved, special, respected, and well taken care of.” From visiting the Center it’s easy to see how true this is. The hallways are filled with decorations that change with the seasons, a large mural of a hot air balloon in a blue sky fills the walls of the A-unit where kids can go to read and play games.
A garden planted by the children is filled with produce such as tomatoes and corn, which the kitchen uses to prepare meals. Just glancing at the community calendar shows the many events they host, such as Ben & Jerry ice cream days, pizza parties, and even trips to the beach. “Some of the kids have never even been to the beach so once or twice a year we take some of the kids to a beach in Ventura. We like to try and expose them to different things, that maybe they wouldn’t normally get to do.” You name it, they’ve done it. Johnson said, “We go everywhere and we are loved by the community. Everyone in Kern County loves the Jamison Center.” The reason the Center is able to do so much with the children is through generous donations from the community and from grants.
The Center clearly leaves a permanent impact on the children who pass through its doors. Johnson mentioned that she often hears kids say that they want to work there after completing college. Sometimes former residents even return as adults to donate to the shelter. She told us about a recent event that was thrown by an employee of a local business because “he remembered the treatment that he had here. And two weeks ago his company gave a huge party with a waterslide.”
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it is only with the help of the community and other Kern County Departments, that the Children’s Center is able to run. “We collaborate with other community partners, so it’s not just Jamison Center, we’re a team we try to work together and collaboratively for the children.” Some of the departments who work alongside the shelter include the on-site school operated year-round through the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, and Kern County Mental Health which has an office at the Center, providing mental health care services for the children.
Johnson said that there is a definite need in Kern County for more foster parents. Other needs for the shelter are gently used clothing for all ages, especially for under age five, as kids go home with two to three outfits, often on very short notice. Donations such as these can be taken to their office at 1010 Shalimar Drive. While the shelter accepts most gently used clothing items, there are other things that they can only accept new such as car seats and socks, so if you’re not sure, contact their office at (661) 334-3500.