30 Years is Only the Beginning

Jim Roberts, CEO
August, 1, 2017 -


Thirty Years, what an amazing, blessed journey it has been--watching the Family Care Network emerge from a dream to become a significant, important player in the lives of so many children, youth and families. Ours is a story of incredible people, risk taking, passion, heart, tenacity, innovation, partnership, creativity, planning and, above all, serving!

It is not likely that I will live to see the next 30 years of the Family Care Network unfold, but, I can do all that is within my power to make sure that the next 30 years will be better and more successful than our first 30. I want to boldly propel FCNI into the future full of hope and vision, and a strong foundation for positively impacting the lives of children, youth and families and strengthening our community. I want to make a successful handoff to a new generation of skilled, creative, enthusiastic and caring leaders and workers who will carry the torch forward with as much passion, vigor and energy as I have had. I want the Central Coast to view Family Care Network as their Community-Based Organization, their opportunity to help “enhance the wellbeing of children and families…”

Revisiting and retelling our 30 year history has been an awesome experience for me; it certainly woke up some sleeping memories and gave me the opportunity to share them along with some very vivid experiences that I will never forget. Now, I am equally as excited about looking towards the future of the Family Care Network. If I might take a few moments of your time to briefly share my vision for this organization which I dearly cherish.

First, we meant it when we established that the mission of the Family Care Network is “to enhance the wellbeing of children and families in partnership with our community!” It is my heart to see the Family Care Network not only be a conduit for the community to get involved with helping children, youth and families heal, succeed and become empowered, but to also become the “go to” place for innovating solutions to our community’s problems. A great example/model of this approach happened this year.

For the past to five to six years, Foster Parent recruitment and retention (now rebranded Resource Parent) has been dismal--not only here on the Central Coast, but across the state and country. This shortage poses a serious challenge in California, especially with the new Foster Care Reform efforts designed to shift youth from group homes back to the community and family-based care. It’s kind of hard to move these children if there aren’t enough families to care for them! To help address this local need, the Family Care Network convened two “Summits” to create awareness of the problem and generate solutions. The first was with the “Faith Community” and the second was with business, nonprofit and government leaders. We had nearly 85 participants collectively generate an amazing array of ideas, strategies, commitments and new partnerships. This success was a wonderful example of our community helping our community.

Second, it goes without saying, the fiscal stability and viability of the Family Care Network is absolutely critical for a successful future. In our three decades, we have certainly experienced some major economic upheaval and political turmoil which has definitely affected our funding. But, we have been successful in riding out storms through creativity, belt-tightening and community support. My goal is for FCNI to have the fiscal strength to be able to perform undaunted through the ups and downs of troubled fiscal waters.

This year, the Family Care Network’s Board of Directors made a major commitment to move forward to establish a full-scale Development function with the goal to build an endowment. At the beginning of July, 2017, we will begin a “Readiness Assessment” process, utilizing the services of a nationally recognized fund development consultant to give us direction and “next steps” to accomplish our goal.

Additionally, the organization is looking at creating additional revenue streams through marketing our expertise (more on this below).

Third, innovation has always been part of the fabric of the Family Care Network. I want this organization to innovate its way into the future! From my perspective, the Human/Social Services Industry is lagging way behind in the use of technology and innovation. Some contend that “Evidence-Based” programs (EBP) represent our innovation, but I disagree. EBPs are primarily moneymakers for the developers and do not have the scale to transform an industry. I believe FCNI can help lead the way in truly transformative innovation that will not only improve delivery efficiencies, but, more importantly, achieve greater outcomes and benefits for our clients.

Towards that end, the FCNI Board will be establishing an Innovation Committee with representatives from the Board, the community and from within our organization. Our objective will be to put everything we do under the microscope to see how we can innovate improvements and/or greater social impact. One example in the works right now is to take our published lifeskills workbook and convert it into an “edutainment”, “gamified” app. Using today’s technology, we can create a handheld lifeskills coach, with videos, instructive activities, incentives, rewards, and even real-time contact with case managers and lifeskill development staff. This is only a scratch on the surface of what we believe is possible--and marketable!

Fourth, education, training and skills-transfer is a strategic objective that will help drive FCNI’s future as well. The Family Care Network has been recognized as a leader in our industry in developing very effective, model programs. Now, we need to raise the bar and emerge as one of the primary “go to” Education, Training and Professional Development providers on a national scale. FCNI has already published several manuscripts, with a number of others in the works. My goal is to take our extensive knowledge base and, through the use of technology, make it much more readily accessible and effective to help others enhance their skills. I also wish to help other organizations achieve the successes we have, not only in service delivery, but in organizational development.

Fifth, one way I am convinced we can help secure a successful future for the Family Care Network is to make sure we are doing our best job of taking care of our staff and ensuring their wellbeing. As I have stated many times over our 30 year story journey, our success has hinged on the amazing passion, skill and commitment to help others demonstrated over time by our staff. My dream is that by enhancing our revenues through marketing materials, education and training, and having a healthy endowment, we can pay wages and provide benefits far beyond the restrictions created by inadequate state and contract rates.

Another way that we can help staff is to make sure we have the best tools and infrastructure available, to make their jobs easier, more efficient and less encumbered by bureaucracy; and this is where innovation and technology come into play. As we jump full steam into innovation planning, one of our goals will be to streamline and improve all of our processes so staff can spend more time with clients and less time at the computer. Akin to this, is making sure we have the best technology available (be it computers, tablets, smart phones, et cetera) and the software we need. We also want to develop more secure, off-site mobility to enhance staff productivity.

Sixth, in looking ahead at the Family Care Network’s future, it is imperative to me that we are part of the process of creating that future at the political and public policy level. I have always operated on the axiom that it is better to be a change creator than always having to play catch-up. Thus, FCNI needs to remain an engaged leader towards this end. This approach will mean we need to develop new Leadership within the organization to wear the advocacy mantle and play a vital role in creating and transforming future public policy concerning children, youth and families.

Seventh, for our 30 years, there has remained one immovable steadfast rule: REMEMBER OUR MISSION! This mantra absolutely must be continued; it is always about positively impacting the lives of the children, youth and families in our care. The Family Care Network exists to positively transform the precious lives of the individuals we have been honored to serve. And for this purpose, part of our innovation process must be to find new ways to get better and quicker results, and for the long term.

One of the objectives that I have yet to see fulfilled is for the community at large to have access to the specialized services that we provide to individuals who are “within the system.” Our healthcare system is supposed to be providing “mental health parity,” a reality on paper only. I think it would be fantastic if families could access the specialty children’s mental health and other supportive services--like Wraparound--that we have garnered so much success with. Again, this objective is going to require major system change, forcing healthcare providers to stop discriminating and cover these cost. The Family Care Network will continue to fight this fight!

There you have it--the short version of my vision of what it will take to secure an effective, successful, community-supported future for the Family Care Network. I am a firm believer in the proverb that “without a vision, people will perish.” For 30 years now, I have laid out a vision and goals for our organization, and I will continue to do so as long as I’m able. But in the meantime, our organization will carefully make preparations to effectively hand off the baton to the next generation who will be charged to lead the organization into the next leg of its journey.

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing these 30 stories, anecdotally encapsulating our history from a perspective which has never been shared. I may not be the smartest and most capable person alive, but I feel I am one of the luckiest. I have been given incredible opportunities, worked with the most amazing, competent and creative people, experienced tremendous encouragement, grace and support, and have known in my heart that I have been part of something much bigger than myself. Most importantly, I have witnessed the positive transformation and life changes ever imagined. There is no greater joy than seeing someone who has been hurt, damaged or disempowered by trauma and horrible circumstances, begin to heal, become empowered and then emerge as a healthy, hopeful individual!

Magna futura erit – our future will be great!