Supporting the Emotional & Mental Health of Children

At age 25, Ivan Villaseñor Madriz has been involved in restorative efforts for 10 years. He is currently the Social Services Coordinator for the San Francisco field office of KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), the leading national organization advocating for the rights of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children in the United States. He is also a 2022 graduate of the IIRP and the 2020 Impact Scholarship awardee.

An undocumented immigrant who arrived with his family as a child from Guadalajara, Mexico, Ivan grew up in Santa Maria, California, an under-resourced farming community. He continues to reside in the U.S. on a renewable work permit through the DACA program.

Faculty member Elizabeth Smull, who chairs the Admissions Committee, says, “Ivan’s personal story really inspired me and opened my eyes. He has put 110% effort into serving his community, which he belongs to and which embraces him, but in a country that doesn’t guarantee he can stay.”

“He has a global perspective,” adds Professor Frida Rundell, Ph.D. “The way he integrates theory and practice is phenomenal.”

As a high school student, Ivan attended a Latino youth leadership conference that influenced the direction his life would take: “I was sent into the woods for a week,” he recalls. “We learned meeting facilitation and everything else you think of with leadership. But the entire process was restorative! We had morning check-ins and breakout circles where we had a chance to process and hear each other. Since then, almost everything I do has been restorative, through college to this day.”

As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, Ivan led work that supported historically underrepresented youth, and he conducted mental health first aid training in his role with Catholic Charities. These activities utilized various trauma-informed and restorative practices.

In his current role at KIND, Ivan works with a team of staff and pro-bono attorneys to support unaccompanied minors through the immigration process. As the first staff member in his role in the San Francisco Office, he is responsible for designing a program to support the emotional and mental health needs of KIND’s young clients, in addition to helping them through their legal challenges.

“I want to create a social services program that is based in restorative principles,” explains Ivan. “How can we create relationships with clients from the very first meeting? How can we help them process trauma and not be retraumatized by navigating the legal system?”

Attorneys at KIND have been completely receptive, he continues. “One of the attorneys said, ‘Ivan, we’re talking about changing the way we work together!’ There’s recognition of the power of relationships, the power of community, the power of just showing up. I see this as a very special opportunity.”

Ivan says he is considering pursuing the thesis option at the IIRP: “I am excited to see if it is possible to create or propose a valid vision for what restorative research can look like, using restorative storytelling. This will impact my work if I can find an approach to research that closely aligns with restorative values.”

IIRP Impact Scholarships provide full tuition and fees toward a Master of Science in Restorative Practices and are made possible by donations. Starting in 2023, the IIRP graduate school is expanding the Impact Scholarship program and awarding up to five additional full-tuition scholarships per year for a total of twenty-five by 2027.

“I feel a great sense of commitment and responsibility,” Ivan concludes. “Restorative work is a philosophy, it’s a spirit, it’s practices that have belonged to us for as long as we’ve been on this earth, for as long as we’ve been a species. If I can support the way we grow and incorporate that, it’s an honor. So, thank you!”

The honor belongs to the IIRP and our donors as well, to support students like Ivan striving to make an impact in the world.