Who We Are

We support the healthy emotional development of children 0-5 years of age within a culturally relevant context so that young children will be able to learn to their full potential.

Mission Statement

The Link to Children supports the healthy emotional development of children 0-5 years of age within a culturally relevant context so that young children will be able to learn to their full potential, even in difficult times and under difficult circumstances by providing early intervention mental health services at child care centers in Alameda County. Our two-year multi-lingual, multi-cultural training internship provides post-masters mental health interns with a specialization in culturally competent early childhood mental health.


In August 1996, The Link to Children (TLC), Inc. was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization by a board of dedicated early childhood education and mental health professionals, Ann Copenhagen, Eric Peterson, Katrina Ross, Christina Shea, Hugo Lucero, and others, under the leadership of Grace Manning-Orenstein, PH.D., LMFT.

The economic pressures and cultural forces of the past thirty years were changing the way families cared for their children. In many cases both parents now worked outside of the home. Because of the high divorce rate many children were being raised in single-parent homes. The number of children in childcare and family care homes had increased to over 13,000,000 in the United States. These numbers were about to expand dramatically with the influx of children of welfare-to-work mothers.

Additionally, the early childhood population was becoming increasingly diverse. A recent survey of Alameda County showed that 66% of youth ages 17 and under came from families of color. Of these children 17.6% live in poverty; 33% of them below 185% of the poverty level.

Developmental disparities as a result of economic disadvantages become apparent prior to kindergarten and are known to negatively affect later school performance. To address these inequities, Dr. Manning-Orenstein and the Board of Directors developed an on-site, early intervention mental health model that places mental health interns in child development centers to provide support for young children and the families and teachers who are raising them.

TLC piloted its model program with the help of Phyllis Gorelick, a Registered Marriage, Family Therapist Intern, in collaboration with the Association of Children’s Services located in the Fruitvale District of East Oakland. After successfully launching this site Eric Peterson and Katrina Ross, past presidents, led the organization in expanding services at six other child development centers in Oakland, Emeryville and Berkeley funded by the State of California to serve low-income, high-risk families with children 0 – 5 years of age. The mental health interns who worked at these centers were instrumental in establishing the TLC model, as were the centers that welcomed them.

TLC intern therapists now provide up to 3400 hours a year of early intervention services to the families at 8 locations. They collaborate with community agencies, parents, providers and, administrators, to support of the healthy emotional development of young children. TLC has an incredible Clinical Leadership Team. See “Staff” for more information.

The child development sites have a play therapy room where the intern therapists provides 14 hours a week of on-site services to the children, parents and teachers. At the Oakland Unified School District our mental health consultant provides on-site consultation to the teachers and meets with the parents. Lastly. at the Alameda County Family Justice Center, a one-stop service center for victims of domestic violence and their children. We are one of 20 on-site partners and provide child victims of domestic violence and their parents therapeutic services.

Today, The Link to Children (TLC), Inc. is one of several agencies funded by Measure Y to partner in the development of mental health services for all children five and under in Alameda County. In addition, TLC is funded through the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth to be on-site at 3 Oakland Unified School District sites. TLC has increased our services at the Alameda County Family Justice Center in Oakland.