Santa Paula Times

Rotary: United Parents offers support,
resources when child has disorder

June 03, 2015
Santa Paula News

The number of children with mental health, emotional and behavioral disorders is larger than people think Santa Paula Rotarians learned at a recent meeting from the executive director of United Parents.

Headquartered in Camarillo, Lori Litel of United Parents said the organization provides resources to empower, strengthen and support parents who have children with such disorders by its “Parents Helping Parents” family driven programs.

Although society as a whole has become more accepting there is still “A very large stigma attached to mental illness, especially children,” said Litel, even though there are millions with “serious disorders.”

And that can impact and “cause problems” with their families, peers and schools, disruptions that can impact the entire community.

Among children 9 to 17 years old, 21 percent — more than one in five — have disorders, but only 20 percent of children with mental disorders are being treated.

“Suicide is the third leading cause of death,” for children and youth noted Litel. 

Approximately 50 percent of youth 14-years and older with disorders drop out of high school and youth with undiagnosed disorders will fill jails and prisons as adults.

About 65 percent of the boys and 75 percent of the girls in juvenile detention have a mental illness. 

Ellen and Norm Linder of Ventura County formed United Parents 25 years ago when they found their adopted son had “severe problems…it affects the life of the whole family,” that often become social outcasts because of the behavior of the “problem child.”

Families themselves suffer as attention is often “diverted” to the child with a disorder, making siblings feeling neglected and not as loved.

“Primarily, what United Parents do is let these families know they are not alone,” and are able to find support and guidance with those that share their situation.

At times children with disorders have other developmental problems and Litel said United Parents has a group for “parents who had to place children outside homes,” an often traumatic decision.

United Parents is a model: “It is the first organization in the state with a parent-partner program,” offering respite to caregivers.

The group also is an advocate for parents’ rights when it comes to enrolling their children in school; by law schools have numerous responsibilities and must evaluate such children.

“We’ll go with the parents to the school meeting and stand right by their side,” to ensure the rights of the parents and their child said Litel. 

According to the United Parents website, the organization “is the voice of families building a bridge to recovery,” is innovative and “seeks to identify, design & fill the gaps in treatment services. 

“United Parents is an autonomous organization that works with other agencies and professionals in a collaborative, non-adversarial manner,” and “encourages approaches to healing and recovery as diverse as our community.”

Litel ended her presentation noting, “If I have one sort of word of wisdom I am asking you to pay attention to the people in your life,” for changes in behavior and signs of depression.

“…if someone is suffering silently do-do-do speak to that person,” and try to determine why they are troubled and if so, offer encouragement or even urge them to seek professional help.

“Sometimes people are afraid to ask how people are doing,” a simple question that Litel said can mean the difference between life and death, such as the tragic suicide last year of actor/comedian Robin Williams.

For more information visit the website:

Or, call United Parents for more information (805) 384-1555.