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Catholic Voice
May 22, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Berkeley parish official site
of Fatima Centennial pilgrimage

Young people to gather in Hayward
for summer conference
Catholic Charities names director
for Claire's House

Leah Kimble-Price

Claire's House is going to be a home.

That's how Leah Kimble-Price, who has been named director for Claire's House, envisions the residence where a dozen young girls, victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking, will begin to heal.

"In my many years as a clinician, visiting group homes and talking with children about what's missing, often it's just a home where they can relax," she said.

In addition to the professional services required to meet the needs of the commercially sexually exploited children, Kimble-Price, a licensed marriage and family therapist with many years of clinical experience, is looking to give them a home.

"The same way I was raised in my home," said the third-generation Oaklander.

That goal is part of what draws her to Claire's House, the Diocese of Oakland and Catholic Charities of the East Bay's project to take care of these children and journey with them toward their future. Claire's House is expected to open in early 2018.

"It was intriguing to create not just a facility but a residence, where someone would want to live and be proud to live," Kimble-Price said. "That's my vision: Create this therapeutic living community that the girls are contributing to and building along with us."

Claire's House

A residence for victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking.

Under the direction of Catholic Charities of the East Bay

Number of residents: 12

12 to 17

Estimated stay:
18 months

Anticipated opening:

February 2018
"In my work as a clinician," she said, "there's no way you're working with youth in the Bay Area that you're not seeing human trafficking every single day," she said. "It's impacting every single young person, if not directly, though their peers, their caregivers, their everyday life. The youth are really educating me on what they need."

What has she learned? "They're really missing that cross-generational care," Kimble-Price said. Most systems are designed not to include it. But for Kimble-Price, "being able to re-establish the parts of their childhood that have been stolen is really exciting to me."

She has a vision for the staff at Claire's House.

"I'm looking for grandmas and aunties," she said. "A lot of girls don't get to talk to a grandmother ever or get advice from an auntie. Or have someone sit and braid their hair."

Education is a key component to the "multifaceted, multilevel approach" Kimble-Price is planning.

"For girls who have been going to a public school, we're happy to help them re-enroll in the school they were going to until things were disrupted," she said. If there is a need to find a new school, that can be accommodated.

For girls who haven't found success in traditional schools, or for traumatic reasons cannot attend school, home school will be available.

At Claire's House, they'll do "exactly what you'd do in your home," if your child found herself unable to function in a school setting.

"What would we all do? We would home school. We would find a way," Kimble-Price said. "Why wouldn't we do that at Claire's House?"

Mentoring is another key component. Mentoring for the residents of Claire's House will be offered at a location away from the house.

Claire's House's reach will go beyond its property line. "Each parish will have someone trained by us," in the issues of commercial sexual exploitation of children, Kimble-Price said. The goal will be to "educate people as to what 's going in their community, demystify and debunk myths."

The parish education is expected to begin this fall.

Parishes might also become a source of foster parents, with training provided by Clare's House staff.

"When girls transition out of Claire's House, stepping down into a foster parent or adoptive situation, we'll be able to offer someone trained by us, from the parishes or from the community, who has a CSEC-informed parenting style," Kimble-Price said.

A 12-year-old arriving at Claire's House could stay until she "ages out" at 18, but chances of such a long-term residency are low. An 18-month residence is closer to the ideal.

"From what we know about human trafficking and sexual exploitation," Kimble-Price said, "the time they'll be able to stay is lower." The average may be closer to nine months.

Some girls return to their family home, with support.

Kimble-Price, a graduate of Oakland public schools and San Francisco State University, has been a longtime advocate.

"I've never not done social justice work," she said. "That's the way I was raised," in a family with multiple generations of public service.

In her work, she has created strong partnership over the years in the Oakland area with other groups providing services to commercially sexually exploited children, including MISSSEY, DreamCatcher, Covenant House, HEAT Watch, Love Never Fails, Regina's Door, Ruby's Place, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and West Coast Children's Clinic.

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