In 1906, Mr. & Mrs. Jacob Strickland took in an orphaned
nephew to their farm just outside the northern city limits of
Los Angeles (which is still our main site today). Another boy
- a ward of the court - arrived in the same year. By 1908 there
were 13 boys living on the farm. The Stricklands supported
the home by selling dairy products and chickens raised on
When Judge Curtis Wilbur, the presiding judge in Los Angeles Juvenile Court, was handling juvenile cases in
Superior Court, he faced the dilemma of deciding where to place delinquent or orphaned boys. At that
time, a reform school was the only place available, but in many cases it was not an adequate alternative.
Judge Wilbur felt a home for boys was needed, and under his leadership the Strickland Home for Boys was
incorporated on April 13, 1914.
In the late 1920s, the Home and local Optimist Clubs began discussing working together. Increasing interest
and important financial support from the Los Angeles Optimist Club resulted in changing the name to the
Optimist Boys’ Home and Ranch Inc. in 1934 when it was in fact incorporated as a 501-C-3. During the 40s
and 50s, a dining room, kitchen, administration building, chapel, gymnasium and additional dorms were
During the 60s and 70s, because many of the youngsters in care were victims of divorce, abuse and neglect,
it was determined there was a need for a more structured treatment and educational program. Classes were
established on grounds for students having difficulties with the local school setting. In 1972, the Home began
a major capital project; its own high school to provide classrooms and vocational training for its youngsters.
The Campus program expanded to accommodate 87 boys during this period.
In 1974 the Home undertook the development of our first Group Home.Today the Home operates a total of
four group homes, located in Los Angeles County. Two of the homes house boys and in response to a
growing need, two accommodate girls.
Specialized educational services were provided for all students and in 1990, the home implemented its own
Non-Public School program replacing the school that was operated by the County. An expansion to the
campus facilities was completed in 1991, with the opening of the Haldeman Youth Counseling Center. This
structure housed a special day program as well as the business office, computer operations, fund
development and personnel offices. In 1992, the agency opened a new Foster Family Agency program in
order to respond to the growing need to individually place abused children in foster homes. Staff provides the
foster families in our program with the support and technical assistance to fulfill the responsibility of helping
these foster children who range in age from newborn to 21 years.
In the fall of 1996, our gymnasium was upgraded and renovated. Since its completion, many school
ceremonies, recreational and campus activities have been conducted in this safe and completely refurbished
In 1997 an Independent Living program was initiated. This necessary element provides continued assistance
and support for graduates of the Home while they are continuing their education and becoming working
members of the community. Two years later, another campus improvement was the upgrading and
renovation of a 3-bedroom house on campus for use as an Independent Living Unit for an additional six
In March 1999 we received an Adoptions License. This has enabled us to help children in our foster homes to
be placed in permanent homes through the adoptions process.
In 1999 the agency contracted with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health in order to provide
Day-Rehabilitation services to our campus residents. This allowed for the addition of several services after
school hours and on weekends. These services include Music Therapy, Movement Therapy, Art Therapy,
Substance Abuse programs, Specialized Group Therapies, Recreation Therapy and an expansion of services
to families. Our d.b.a. in fact was changed to Optimist Youth Homes and
This latest expansion led to a severe space problem and therefore we began a Capital Campaign in the
spring of 2001 in order to construct a new 23,000 square foot “Youth Learning Center” on our main campus.
The building opened in September 2005 and is named The Everychild Youth Learning Center, after the
foundation that gave the lead gift.
In 2001 we expanded the aforementioned mental health contract in order to begin an Aftercare Program
allowing us to assist graduates with reintegration into the community. In addition, we began to offer Mental
Health Services to those placed in our Foster Family Program and to detainees of Barry J. Nidorff Juvenile
Hall in Sylmar. That same year the agency became nationally accredited by the Council on Accreditation
(C.O.A.) based in New York City. Only the nation’s premiere agencies are COA accredited.
The fall of 2002 marked the beginning of our Community Mental Health program allowing us to offer Mental
Health Services to Medi-Cal eligible children of L.A. County who are not otherwise associated with any of our
In 2006 we celebrated our 100th anniversary.
In 2007, we expanded our contract with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health once again to
offer specialized programs to young people in the Palmdale/Lancaster area in order to divert them from
residential care. This is a Full Service Partnership (FSP) that is funded through the passage of the State’s
Mental Health Services Act, a result of voters approving Proposition 63 in 2006.
The year 2007 also marked the beginning of a Family Finding Program for our residential and foster care
youth who do not have parents available to them for a variety of reasons. That year we also expanded our
Mentoring Program in an effort to eventually help more young people in residential care have their own
In 2010 we began using Evidenced Based Practices in many of our mental health programs.
A “Placement Assessment Center” (PAC) unit was added to our campus program in 2012. This unit is
designed to evaluate probation minors from LA County Probation to determine their future treatment needs.
That same year Optimist became part of a partnership with LA County in offering a specialized program for
victims of sexual trafficking (CSEC). In addition the agency added Whole Foster Family Care to our foster
care program enabling us to admit pregnant or parenting teens to our population.
A Pet Therapy program was added in 2012 for residents of our campus and group homes.
Optimist Charter School opened in September of 2013. This is a special charter school designed primarily to
serve probation and foster youth. The Los Angeles County Office of Education authorized this new venture
and serve as our partners in its operation. With this new addition to our program, Optimist had become the
first agency serving probation youth to have both a Charter School and a non-public school on a single
campus to be able to meet all the varying educational needs of probation and foster youth. However in 2015
changes in the referral system as well as lower numbers led to the closing of the non-public school. The
Charter School was expanded to accept girls from one of our sister agencies in Hollywood.
The Foster Family and Adoptions program was chosen as a pilot agency to provide foster homes to L.A.
County Probation minors in 2015 and we placed their first young man into one of our foster homes.
We at Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services are proud of our rich heritage and commitment to serving
youth. With the help of charitable friends, we have been able to meet the ever-changing needs of the
community for over a century. With your continued support, we aspire to continue to make “today’s children
tomorrow’s promise” as we expand our programs to serve even more youth and families.