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PB&J Family Services a treasure for at-risk kids

Walking through the doors at PB&J Family Services is an experience not soon forgotten. We were captivated by the energy, sense of purpose and warmth from the employees and volunteers that permeated the entire building and grounds. That, coupled with the laughter and excitement of the children enjoying the colorful atmosphere, made it a wonderful experience.

PB&J has been around since 1972, “helping at-risk children to grow and develop to their full potential within nurturing families, in supportive communities.” This statement is so much more than pretty words on a piece of paper; it is truly the impetus behind everything PB&J does. And it does a lot.

Recently we visited with Susannah Burke, the executive director of PB&J, and were so impressed with the multitude of services PB&J provides to the community and the almost laser-like focus on creating the best environment for children from birth to five years old.

Because most of a person’s development occurs between birth and five years of age, PB&J does everything it possibly can to help parents and families create a nurturing environment for their children. Their programs include a therapeutic preschool, pre-K extended day, juvenile community corrections, home visiting, supported living, pathways and family reunification programs.

These programs, according to Burke, are designed so the organization can do its best to live up to its goals of prevention of child maltreatment, preservation of the family, optimal child development, school readiness, and success in life. These programs serve a multitude of needs and help families overcome obstacles that get in the way of forming a nurturing environment for children to grow and flourish.

Founded in Albuquerque’s South Valley as a school for children whose mothers were being treated for mental illness, today PB&J is an interactive parenting program to prevent and treat child abuse. The organization serves more than 1,000 families every year with locations in the South Valley, the Town of Bernalillo and the Southeast Heights.

PB&J has grown over the years because the people who were involved identified more ways to become effective and found more needs that needed to be addressed. It always focused on children and families and how the organization could create a stronger environment for children who have adverse childhood experiences. The group understands that society’s problems like mental illness, addiction, domestic violence and poverty impact children in ways the rest of us can’t imagine. PB&J understands this impact and strives every day to make life better for children and families affected by these problems.

According to PB&J, “annually it costs New Mexico more than $39,000 to house an inmate, $178,073 to house a juvenile in a detention center, and $35,000 for every child in foster care. By comparison, it costs PB&J approximately $6,000 to provide services for an entire family for one year.” Wow. Prevention is significantly more cost-effective.

So much more could be said about the work PB&J does and the programs it operates that we could fill several more columns. They have our support, and we hope yours, also. PB&J always needs volunteers, but we can also look around us to see how we might help children and families that we know.

In the meantime, we are left with a memory and a heart-warming picture of a father and daughter sprawled on the floor of one of the rooms at PB&J, playing, laughing and enjoying each other. It bodes well for their future.

Contact the Ryans at




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