Hillsides Community Blog

How Do I Love Thee? How One Hillsides Counselor Uses ‘Love Languages’ to Help her Clients

By Alison Bell

Hillsides child and family specialist Lakisha Robinson is an avid reader.  In her varied readings, she is always looking for books she can use as a tool to help families.

A few years ago, she happened upon the 1995 title, “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. The book describes five different ways people prefer to have love expressed to them, and how knowing your love language and that of your partner or family member can help you communicate better. The five different love languages are 1) having acts of service done for you, such as when someone cooks you dinner or folds your laundry: 2) spending quality time together; 3) receiving words of affirmation, such as “I love you,” or “I appreciate you;” 4) physical touch, and 5) receiving gifts.

Lakisha not only had fun identifying her love language at the time  – acts of service – but she quickly saw how the book could help families improve communication skills and grow closer, especially in times of a crisis. So since 2013, she has incorporated the concepts into her practice.

Lakisha works with wraparound services, which provide a multi-disciplinary team to help a child and the family address a child’s mental health needs. Lakisha’s role is to focus on the child’s mental health while a parent partner supports the parent. Lakisha teams up with the parent partner of a family, and she has the child or teen take an on-line quiz that identifies their love language, while the parent partner does the same for the parent.

Once the child and parent identify their love styles, good things start to happen. “Knowing what love language your child or parent speaks, and using it, makes the other person feel heard and listened to,” she said. “And once you have spoken their language, they’re more willing to hear you out.”

Lakisha has seen this play out over and over again. For example, a parent may discover that a child’s love language is receiving gifts. The next time the parent asks the child to do a chore, they could express it this way: “I would like you to clean your room by Saturday and afterwards, we can get ice cream.” This is bound to be much more effective than a straight demand or let’s say, wooing the child with a compliment, such as “You’re the best room picker-upper” when the child doesn’t care about affirmations.

“When a parent understands a child’s love language, it really cuts down on arguments,” said Lakisha.

The same goes for a child understanding their parents’ languages. You may think that children, especially teens, are so self-absorbed they wouldn’t care what their parents’ love language is. This may often be true, said Lakisha, “however, they are interested in getting their needs met, so they will meet the needs of others in order to make it happen.”

Therefore it will be very handy for a teen to discover that their mom’s love language is spending quality time with a loved one. They could use this information to sidestep a fight while making Mom feel valued by saying something like, “I want to go out with my friends Saturday night, but let’s plan a time on Sunday to hang out together.”

In addition, it’s also helpful for clients to know their own love languages because they can then express how they would like to be treated.  For example, a teen whose love language is affirmations could say to a friend or teacher, “I really like it when you acknowledge what I have done right.”   Expressing your needs is not only empowering, “it helps you get what you want out of life,” said Lakisha.

Learning to use love languages as a strategic communication tool can take time and practice.  However, eventually, it becomes second nature, said Lakisha.  In her experience, families who regularly consider each other’s love languages can increase their communication skills by up to 50 percent and the child’s negative behavior and family’s frustration level decrease dramatically.

Do you know your love language? With it being Valentine’s Day, the timing is perfect for all the sweethearts in your life – romantic partners, children, even friends. Just visit https://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/.) The quiz only takes 10 – 15 minutes and will identify your two most prominent love languages.

In the meantime, Lakisha will be scouring the library, looking for more enlightening books and concepts. “I love new and interesting information, and if it can help my clients, even better,” she said.

Lakisha Robinson is a child and family specialist working with Hillsides’ Wraparound program.  She is also a Hillsides brand ambassador, a group that spreads awareness of the Hillsides brand throughout the agency.  Lakisha graduated from California State University, Fresno with a Master of Science in Child and Family Sciences.  Growing up in a small town where one feeds the cows or watches the grass grown for fun prompted Lakisha to develop a love of reading. 

Alison Bell is the director of communications and social media at Hillsides.

Top 10 Reasons to Attend Hillsides Gala, Heart of Brazil

By Lisa Gavitt


Our annual gala, Heart of Brazil, is coming up on Saturday night, February 23, 2019, at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena. This event is our largest fundraiser of the year, and we hope to see you all there. In case you haven’t bought your ticket yet, here are the top 10 reasons to attend:

  1. You will be immersed in a first-class experience of Brazilian culture… so much so that you may even forget you are in Pasadena!
  1. You can break out your colorful statement dress and shoes in the middle of winter. If yellow or orange is your color, this is YOUR year.
  1. You will get to take part in an old Brazilian tradition and make three wishes. No genie in a bottle necessary!
  1. For all you protein lovers, Executive Chef Denis Depoitre of The Langham Huntington, Pasadena will be preparing a carnivore’s dream, a trio of meats. That is meat times three, people!
  1. Who hasn’t dreamed of owning a chest full of treasure? At the gala, you will have a chance to buy the winning key to unlock an extraordinary prize.
  1. You will sip on Brazil’s famous cocktail, Caipirinha. We can’t guarantee we can pronounce it, but guarantee it will taste delicious!
  1. Get your Samba on! A group of Samba dancers will be sharing the evening with us. This will make for a great photo op and they may even teach you a dance move or two.
  1. NBC4’s beloved weathercaster, Fritz Coleman, is the MC for the night. He will keep you laughing while you bid the night away.
  1. You will get the chance to win exclusive auction items, including a one-week stay at Hudson Yards, Manhattan’s newest luxury condos, a tour of the Telsa factory, and VIP tickets to The Magic Castle, to name a few.
  1. Most importantly, the money raised at the gala helps support the nearly 17,000 children and families Hillsides serves. For tickets, please visit https://hillsides.wedid.it/campaigns/5771.


Lisa Gavitt is the development coordinator for Hillsides’ Advancement Department. She recently graduated with a major in communications from California State University, Fullerton and studied abroad for one semester in Sydney, Australia. She has worked with children as a nanny, a tutor, and an English teach in Vietnam, but always dreamed of becoming an event coordinator. Her position at Hillsides has allowed her to fulfill her goals while staying in touch with her passion for helping children.


The Upside of Loss: A Runner Learns to Make Peace with a New Reality



The author and her husband after running a 10k.

By Alison Bell

I have been a runner since I was 18. Before that, I got my exercise fix through sports. From age 10 on, there wasn’t a team sport I didn’t like. I played on the girls’ junior high softball, basketball, and volleyball teams. I competed in junior tennis. In high school I was an outside hitter on the volleyball team and half of the number one double’s badminton team (yes, it used to be an offered sport). In college, I played varsity soccer, volleyball, and badminton.

I started running as a way to stay in shape in-between seasons, and it quickly turned into an obsession. After figuring out the perfect match of pace and distance, I settled into running six miles a day. I kept up this pattern for the next several decades. Nothing felt right until I finished my daily run. Running siphoned off my blue devils, righted some unnamed wrong that was resurrected each day and needed constant slaying. After my run, I felt renewed, purified. The impatient, imperfect part of me was buried, under layers of sweat and sunscreen, at least until the next morning.

I knew I was hooked on running, but as far as addictions went, it seemed harmless, if not virtuous. I took pride knowing that you could drop me anywhere, any time, and I could run for some six-plus miles with the best of them. Should there be a disaster that required me to get out of town quickly, I could make it to the hills with just my Sauconys and my steady runner’s heart. I was strong. I was independent.

About three years ago, my right foot started to hurt. At night, I couldn’t sleep. I imagined a small, mean child pummeling the top of my foot with a hammer. I finally had an X-ray and was told I suffered from severe arthritis on the mid-bone of my foot, probably from years of twisted ankles, which I was prone to. I was told to run as pain allowed.

After some tears, I decided to ignore the pain, which tended to only kick in the last mile or so of a run. So I ran on my bum foot another few years until nine months ago, when my left foot started to hurt in the exact same place. I went back to the same doctor, who proclaimed I had matching arthritis on my left foot.

Maybe it was the double diagnosis or maybe my feet just finally caught up with me because soon afterwards when I went out for a run, my feet refused to comply. They wouldn’t bend, the bottoms felt inflamed with a plantar fasciitis-like stiffness and pain, and every step was agony. To add insult to injury, my right knee throbbed. After consulting with a knee doctor, who warned me to stop running just for the sake of my knees, I went cold turkey. This meant giving up my daily fix, and also a twice-a-week ritual with one of my best friends, Maureen, with whom I had shared early morning Tuesday and Thursday runs for the last 20 years.

You would think my feet would thank me, but instead they got worse. They stiffened up in the morning, at night, every time I sat down. They were erratic, with minds of their own. They would shoot up with pain one minute, then the next, settle down and behave like perfectly reasonable appendages.

I was on the verge of becoming both a cripple and the cranky, insufferable person I’d been avoiding all my life.

I decided to see if new forms of exercise might save me. I’d always used Stairmasters as a last-ditch substitute for running, but I took to the elliptical machine in earnest, clocking in an hour a day. I began lifting weights more diligently to beef up my puny arms. I committed to yoga, where I learned I had a rotten core and couldn’t balance, which gave me new goals to shoot for. (My tree pose is still a wreck, but I kill the downward facing dog.) I started spinning. I bought a bike. I swam laps at the Rose Bowl. I started…. sigh … walking.

My feet haven’t exactly gotten better, but they haven’t gotten worse, and my mood has definitely improved. Today I feel in better overall shape than I did a year ago, and in fact I might even say that since I stopped running, I am in the best shape of my life.

As we hurl ourselves unwittingly into another year, it makes me think that the New Year is a time to re-evaluate old habits. Sometimes we have to say goodbye to even the healthy ones. Change is hard, especially when mixed with physical pain or the psychic agony of letting go of something you love. But sometimes it can lead to undiscovered potential or benefits. I am using muscles I didn’t know I had, and can’t help but think my knees and other joints will thank me one day for saving them the trauma of extra miles spent pounding the pavement.

They say that dreams of flying are one of the most common we can have. Flying expresses our desire to be free of confines, to soar to new heights, figuratively and literally. Now I dream not of flying, but of running. In my dreams, my feet carry me swiftly over forest paths littered with leaves, only the sound of my breath keeping me company. I am fast, pain-free, as light of heart as of body.

Turns out, the runner in me isn’t completely gone yet.

Alison Bell is the director of communications and social media at Hillsides.

The True Meaning of the Holidays is Right Here in our Hearts


A family enjoying the holiday party at our Family Resource Center, East San Gabriel Valley.

By Desiree Rodrigues

It is that time of year again, the holiday season, when you are rushing about town trying to find that one last gift, sending off greeting cards and planning gatherings. Whether you are shopping or getting ready for parties, I am sure that the following question has crossed your mind: What do the holidays mean to me?

For me, the answer is family.

Let’s take a moment and think of the very first Christmas story. A father, Joseph, is taking care of his pregnant wife, Mary. He traveled in search of a safe place for them, asking for help along the way. He did what was necessary to provide for them. That very special story is in fact replayed day in and day out all across the world. Parents are creating safe shelters, providing the necessities, and nurturing their growing children physically and mentally.

This past week our Family Resource Center, East San Gabriel Valley office had its very first holiday celebration. Several clients and their families were invited to have dinner, partake in the gift receiving, and visit with Santa.  When planning the event, the main goal was to have the families come together, have a special dinner, and have fun. Mission accomplished!

DSC_0906 -2

The author, left, with Santa.

Our families enjoyed the arts and crafts activities and taking a family portrait.  These are little things that not all of our families are accustomed to or have the means to do on their own, so the experience was rewarding.   I had the pleasure of taking the family portraits, and the look on children’s faces was priceless. I saw the joy in the eyes of the parents and grandparents as they posed with their little ones. I was reminded that night of the meaning of the holiday.

Many of the Hillsides’ programs have thrown similar festivities, all with the same goal and coinciding with our mission to strengthen families. To all who celebrated Hanukkah, and those who will celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa, may you enjoy the time spent with your family and family of friends.

Boas Festas!  Happy Holidays!

Desiree Rodrigues, who has worked at Hillsides for eight years, is the program coordinator for the CalWORKs program at Hillsides. She is currently working on her degree in literature at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, and is looking forward to beginning California State University, Long Beach next fall. 

How Adopting a Child Can Reverse the Cycle of Trauma

Editor’s Note: November is National Adoption Month. In honor of the month, and of those parents who decide to take the transformative step to adopt a child, this week’s blog post centers on our Bienvenidos Foster Care and Adoption program.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser conducted one of the largest investigations of adverse childhood experiences, often referred to as ACE. The study identified the long-term impact on those who suffered traumatic experiences during their childhood. Because of these traumas, many fail at school, struggled to establish and maintain relationships, experienced high levels of unemployment, and are susceptible to mental illness, chronic poor health, and premature death. These conditions are rooted in abuse and neglect as children — destabilizing experiences that establish a tragic pattern of hardship, failure, and sadness. The study also revealed that the principle factor that can influence the negative consequences of adverse childhood experiences is the consistent presence of a caring adult in the lives of children who have been traumatized.

All of our efforts at Hillsides are aimed at breaking the cycle of adverse outcomes for the children, youth, and families we serve. We do that in a number of ways through various initiatives, but all are dependent on dedicated employees and caring volunteers. One very significant initiative is our Bienvenidos Foster Care and Adoption Services. Through our resource families (formerly known as foster families), homes are provided to children who would otherwise be living at group homes. There is no substitute for the family of origin. However, if for good reason, the family is unable to reunite, home-based family care is an indispensable resource for a child.

For some of our children living with a resource family, there is an opportunity for adoption. This past fiscal year, we finalized a record number of adoptions, 17. So far this year, five adoptions have been finalized and 14 are in the process. Adoption becomes a defining moment for a child and adoptive family. Pedro and his wife Nubia had been resource parents for one and a half years through Bienvenidos when three-week-old Lucia came into their lives. They fell in love with her and decided to adopt. Adoption is a lengthy process, but finally, on September 6 of this year, the adoption became final, and Lucia found her forever family. “It’s one of those moments that can’t compare to anything else in your life,” said Pedro as he thought back on the adoption ceremony. “It’s like your own child is being born.” Today, Lucia is a lively three-year-old who loves to laugh, dance, and carry her “Papa’s” lunch box for Pedro when he walks through the door each night after work. “Being her parent is a beautiful experience,” said Pedro.

Resource and adoptive families assume tremendous responsibilities when they welcome a child in their home. It is a daunting task that deserves our respect and support. Recently I heard a resource parent speak about her 25 years of welcoming children in foster care into her home. She mentioned that her success could be attributed to the support that she receives from her family and community. These selfless and dedicated individuals and the children they serve welcome and need our support. For those of you interested in either becoming a resource family or adopting a child, please contact our Bienvenidos Foster Care and Adoption program at 1-800-828-5683 or fostercarerecruitment@bienvenidos.org.

*Names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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