As one of Los Angeles County’s oldest non-profits, Five Acres has been committed to strengthening children and families along with empowering them within their communities. This year marks its 135th anniversary.
Who is Five Acres?
Since its start in 1888 as an orphanage in downtown Los Angeles, Five Acres has protected the most vulnerable members of its community: children. It was initially established to offer safety to children who had no home. Over time, the mission expanded to also focus on well-being and mental health, especially since clients were increasingly entering Five Acres due to abuse and neglect.
Today, Five Acres turns its motivation towards safety, well-being, and permanency having grown to an agency caring for more than 7,000 children and family members annually across six counties. These three pillars provide the framework for all its programs, along with guidance towards the development of delivering more effective means of caring for children and families in crises.
Timeline of Momentous Events
Five Acres has had many momentous events and a multitude of successes in its 135-year tenure. Ten pivotal moments in the company history are:
- 1888: The Boys and Girls Aid Society of Los Angeles (today dba Five Acres) was established as an orphanage and became a place to care for motherless and abused children.
- 1893: a 2.5. acre lot was donated to build a three-story dormitory (completed in 1903) and had the capacity to serve over a hundred children; it operated for 23 years.
- 1913: the Board of Trustees, along with many generous donors, started and contributed significantly to a building endowment.
- 1921: five acres of land was purchased in Altadena and the famed architect Myron Hunt was hired to design “an outstanding child-oriented facility”.
- 1926: the new residential facility opened and was able to provide cottage living (instead of a sterile institutional environment), an on-site hospital, a large, landscaped play area, and other services to 130 children; this campus is still active today.
- 1945: the agency changed its purpose from custodial care to a casework agency.
- 1957: the agency focused on ensuring that care was accessible and possible regardless of nationality, race, or creed, and to do and perform anything that will further the welfare, needs, and education of neglected, abandoned, or disturbed children.
- 1966: the first group home opened.
- 1973: a non-public school was opened to support the education of the children that resided at the facility, which due to changing state regulations, closed in 2018.
- 1983: a research department was established to further support the importance of data.
Between 1984 and 2007, Five Acres grew to help 4,200 clients, children, and families annually and could lend its success to its full continuum of care that is still thriving this very day, such as:
- Foster Care
- Intensive Treatment Foster Care
- Deaf Services
- Adoption & Adoption Promotions Support Services
- Community and Home-Based Services
- Therapeutic Behavioral Services
- Transitional Shelter Care Services
- Short Term Residential Treatment Programs
Vision towards the Future
Serving as a therapist in 2008, Chanel Boutakidis advocated starting the Five Acres permanency department after years of watching children grow up without a family. In 2011, she was appointed CEO and has led the agency with vision and purpose while also being able to navigate the many obstacles and challenges that arise along the way.
In her first year, Chanel created a strategic planning process recognizing that Five Acres could further its impact if it could prevent children from entering the foster care system. This triggered the enhancement of research to measure impact, the increase of prevention services to keep families together, and becoming an industry leader in changing the landscape of working with the most vulnerable youth. Following the strategic direction, Five Acres implemented the vision of being a data-driven organization that uses data to improve services, and to share data at county and state levels.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Five Acres rapidly transitioned most non-residential services to telemedicine, and along with the dedication of its essential workers, Five Acres never had to close, even for a day. Over the course of the pandemic, Five Acres leadership had to quickly maneuver and pivot as schools, courts, and county departments shut down, leaving the most vulnerable children being served at Five Acres with little resources. However, while the world stood still, the love, creativity, and commitment of Five Acres leadership kept the thousands of children and families served healthy and the teams safe and employed.
Leading during changing times
Change is a common factor in the workplace. It can create both challenges and opportunities in all facets of the organizational structure. Five Acres leadership will continue to find productive ways for positive results through best practice standards and its strategic plan: fiscal viability with current and future contracts, client impact with the upcoming state and county reforms, operational efficiency post-pandemic, workforce wellness addressing retention, and cause awareness through advocacy and fundraising.
Five Acres will continue to be the leader in its industry through continuous quality improvement and remain steadfast in its mission of promoting safety, well-being, and permanency for the thousands of families, children, and clients in its care.
This 135th anniversary is more than commemorating an amazing and quite rare milestone. It is a time to celebrate generations of success through the efforts and accomplishments of the past and present Five Acres teams. Perseverance, caring, and resourcefulness was instilled from the first generation and this current one fosters the same principles. The future looks bright as Five Acres looks to continue growing together to create a stronger tomorrow.