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 early 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 built.
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
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 residents.
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
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 programs.
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 mentors.
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.
In 2015 we installed artificial turf on our athletic field.
2016 marked a major expansion year for the agency. After a lengthy due diligence process the boards
of directors of both Optimist and Pacific Lodge Youth Services of Woodland Hills decided to merge as
one organization. The official merger was completed in February 2017. OYHFS operates Pacific
Lodge as a division of our agency. This made us the largest residential all probation provider in the
state of California.
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 “build
productive lives” as we expand our programs to serve even more youth and families.