About Us

Purpose

R.I.S.K. is a Non-Profit organization that is dedicated to helping families in the Sonoma Valley. Parents often find themselves in difficult situations with their children, and have no place to turn. R.I.S.K. will offer help and referrals to the help that you need.

R.I.S.K is partnering with other groups in the Sonoma Valley like SAY, Boys and Girls Club, Sonoma Mentoring Alliance, and Sonoma Valley High School to centralize information, support and resources. We are here to listen and create a dialogue between parents and the community about raising children in today’s world. Our structure and services are designed to help us to become advocates for parents and children in difficult issues like substance abuse, bullying, academic issues or even trouble fitting in in school.

Our Founders

Leslie

I started R.I.S.K. with one single goal-pull parents, professionals, care givers and grandparents together to start a conversation about what is confronting those of us who are raising kids. As parents of two children, my husband Tony and are committed to “paying it forward” after all of the support we received when we were confronting parenting issues with our teenager that changed our lives in only a few short weeks, about three years ago.

Tony and I learned that are no easy answers, but through a series of trial and error with our own situation, we need the resources and support to be knowledgeable about what our kids face everyday. We are no experts, but never gave up on our family or our child. One of the questions we asked ourselves many times, is how do you “parent” with so many different outside influences on our kids, once they walk out that front door each day? From the time they are little, we lay the groundwork for molding them into adults. Then they start to gain independence and that groundwork is tested and sometimes seems to crumble for some families. The best way I can explain to people about what we went through is that we were “deer in the headlights.” This was unchartered territory for us and it was scary. Sleepless nights, constant stress, the lack of communication with our child and the concern for a younger child at home, made for some very tough times. Seeking help was difficult and we hit a lot of dead ends. There were days that I wondered if we would ever find peace in our family again. We have made a lot of progress, but through it all, I have learned that we are not alone. Now our goal is to reach out to all families to help prevent what happened to our family or to help heal another family going through similar circumstances.

Through our efforts with R.I.S.K. we want to provide parents the support to know if what they are seeing is a phase or a problem, to know that there are many resources available to help them with whatever their child is dealing with, and to connect professionals, law enforcement, non-profits, educators and parents together to work together And most importantly to remove the stigma of “a bad parent” when a child’s journey takes an unsafe path. As parents who has felt alone, judged and isolated, our hope with R.I.S.K. is to create the opportunity for change in attitudes. We need healthy, supported parents to be able to face the issues that confront our families and kids.

Jennifer Blackwood

Jennifer Blackwood is a native Californian, born in San Francisco and currently residing in Sonoma with her husband and 2 children.

Jennifer’s experience in producing events; her peer counseling and instructor skills; her background in theater, and her passion for advocacy makes her uniquely suited for producing and presenting impactful and socially relevant workshops, productions and events.

Jennifer’s work history in this field started in 1988, working for an innovative foster care agency and learning about the intricacies of children at risk and the family dynamics that lead them to foster homes. She spent time on the “front lines” with the kids who were most impacted; acted as a liaison between Board and staff; and researched the bureaucracy’s myriad processes and paperwork required to help those in need. These experiences mark the beginning of her interest in helping young kids at risk.

As testament to her interests, Jennifer became certified as a State Certified Sexual Assault Peer Counselor with San Mateo County’s Rape Trauma Services agency in 1998. This included crisis line counseling, hospital/medical/legal support for victims, and liaison work between police and victims. Once trained, she quickly volunteered to be a counselor to incarcerated females at the County juvenile detention facility and received training to co-facilitate self-empowerment and violence-prevention workshops there and at Bay Area high schools. Moreover, she gave specialized in-house training presentations to staff and volunteers about healing from sexual trauma, the link between childhood sexual abuse survivors and sex workers, and other related topics.

Through her work as a Kidpower Instructor and Outreach Coordinator, she is helping children and teens lead safer lives with strong, healthy emotional and physical boundaries. She also understands the other side of the issue: that parents are the gatekeepers and often need as much or more education and resources than their children even do. As an at-risk teen and young woman herself, she experienced her own mother’s frustrations and fears when trying to parent and protect Jennifer. She understands from an experiential place how important it is for parents to have services and a network of support.

Advisory Board

Leslie Nicholson, Executive Director
Dalila Formato, Outreach Coordinator
Joanne Brown, MSW, JD, Legal Advisor
Silvia Floriano, Community Service Officer, Sonoma County Sheriffs Department

Resource Board:

John Boneau, Pharm D., Pharmacy Manager, CVS, Sonoma, guest blogger
Jan Cherne, consultant, grandparent
Sharon Cornelius, consultant, grandparent
Dr. C. DeTorres, MD, Sonoma Plaza Pediatrics, guest blogger
Noella DeTorres, Medical Assistant, Sonoma Plaza Pediatrics, guest blogger
Judy Evans, educator, child advocate
Erin George, local realtor, parent, community volunteer
Amber Howlett, community volunteer, website/tech expert
Tiffany Knef, local realtor, parent, community volunteer
Diane Mannion, community college administrator, parent/grandparent, consultant
E.A. Morgan, owner E.A.s Crossfit, parent, community volunteer
Sydney Smith, principal, Creekside High School, parent