Keeping Children Home

By Giving List Staff   |   November 3, 2021

The Violence Intervention Program (VIP) was founded in 1984, as the Center for the Vulnerable Child, the first Child Advocacy Center in the U.S. that was medically based.

This child abuse focused program rapidly grew into a clinic that provides medical and mental health services for all victims of family violence and sexual assault. Importantly, VIP provided 24-hour response to children, youth, women, and elderly. 

While sitting in a child death review case, founder Dr. Astrid Heppenstall Heger, a professor of clinical pediatrics, realized that protecting children in Los Angeles would require a 24-hour center where her highly trained team could assess any child referred for possible abuse or any child at risk for foster care, and where VIP with social services would determine the appropriate and best intervention. This access to expert evaluations help cut foster care numbers in half, and likely prevented hundreds of children’s deaths at the hands of abusive caretakers. 

Heger began VIP with a handful of staff in a room she said was smaller than her current guest bathroom. Through her pioneering work in the field of child abuse and sexual assault, VIP has changed interventions and outcomes. Because of VIP’s groundbreaking work, Heger received the highest U.S. honor for service to crime victims, accepting the Crime Victim Service Award from the Department of Justice. 

Today the organization has more than 200 employees and offers dozens of services. The 24-hour multidisciplinary clinic evaluates 70% of all child abuse cases in L.A. County and is the only 24/7 clinic for abuse and assault in the county. 

It also has specialized clinics that include the Elder Abuse Forensic Center, the only one of its kind in L.A., and an LGBTQ focused clinic named in partnership with The Alexis Arquette Family Foundation. Altogether, VIP fills a key need in the county by helping 20,000 people a year move past abuse, neglect, and assault.

The group’s mission is to act and build programs where the welfare system fails.

“I personally believe that when issues come up that impact our patient population or the community, and no one is [solving] it, we should be doing it,” Heger says.   

With that same attitude, VIP and Heger have ambitious goals ahead. That includes transforming L.A.’s foster care system by helping families living below the poverty line prevent in-home violence and providing the support they need to retain their children within the nuclear family. Some funds will go directly to supporting families as they struggle to keep their children in their homes.

VIP’s new program “No Kid Graduates to the Streets” will be part of its mentoring program and community outreach efforts housed at its Leonard Hill Hope Center on the campus of the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in East Los Angeles, and will emphasize a need to change the desperate course that is set out for most foster children and youth. The program will provide a coordinated approach to “each child has a mentor” and hopes to build an IT system to streamline information sharing and easy access to County services, activities, and apprenticeships.  

“We want to stop homelessness where it starts, when the child is small and loses the true concept of home,” Heger said. “I really want to focus on the children and see the world through their eyes, their expectations, and provide a lens of hope.”


Violence Intervention Program

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Matching Challenge

The first $100,000 donated will be matched thanks to a generous challenge grant from VIP’s board.

No Kid Graduates to the Streets

Looking to forestall the foster care to homelessness pipeline, the Violence Intervention Program is seeking to fund their new “No Kid Graduates to the Streets” program. 

With a fundraising goal of $20 million, VIP hopes to revitalize an antiquated foster care system, by building out IT networks and establishing more access to services for children who have been moved out of home placements. 

Donated funds will also be used to supplement families who enter the system primarily due to poverty that results in a fundamental inability to care for their biological children.

VIP’s board has generously contributed $100,000 to its ongoing fundraising campaign. Every donation will be doubled, with 90% going straight to children and families. 


The mission of the Violence Intervention Program is to protect and treat all victims of family violence and sexual assault, and for 30 years, has been executing and expanding that vision.
(323) 221-4134
Development Director: Anne Nadel

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Bones heal and bruises fade, but hope and dignity require more to restore than surgery and stitches.

Eve Somer

Key Supporters

In-N-Out Foundation
Diller-von Furstenberg Foundation
Elaine P Wynn and Family Foundation
Jewish Community Foundation
Smidt Trust
Taper Foundation
Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
The Ballmer Group
Unihealth Foundation
USC Good Neighbors
James and Sue Femino Foundation
Julie Jaffe Family Foundation
Watson Foundation
David Vicker Foundation
Kaiser Permanente Foundation
Good Hope Medical Foundation
Weingart Foundation
The Green Foundation
Ahmanson Foundation
The Brotman Foundation