Remembering a Great Friend

Jim Roberts
December, 24, 2015 -

Yesterday, I received news that a long time, former SLO County Social Worker passed away; her name was Marilyn Stein. Marilyn was a great friend and supporter of the Family Care Network and probably one of the most influential individuals in the development of several of our core service programs. I will forever feel indebted to her for her contributions, guidance and encouragement.

Marilyn was one of those people whom you either strongly liked or disliked. Some thought her to be bombastic, but I knew her to be very passionate, bluntly forthright, assertive and extremely self-confident. What she lacked in tack, she made up for with a heart of gold and a strong determination to do the very best for the children and youth she served.

When I started the Family Care Network, Marilyn was one of the first Social Workers to refer children to us for placement. When I first discussed my vision and model for providing Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC), she got it! In fact, she was the only worker from any of the county agencies we worked with who really understood the potential and value of TFC. At that time, the status quo was “oh no, these kids need real treatment in a group home.” When the state launched its Intensive Treatment Foster Care (ITFC) pilot program in 1991, Marilyn stopped by my office to tell me that FCNI needed to be included in the pilot because we were already doing it. She even provided me a ton of information about the program, its goals, practices and policies. We couldn’t join the initial pilot, but because of Marilyn, we were fully prepared to launch when the program was opened up statewide in 1994.

Fast forward to today, the Family Care Network’s TFC program is considered the premier model in California and has received both state and federal recognition. TFC family-based service is now the federal and state preferred treatment approach for victims of childhood trauma. Twenty plus years ago, Marilyn had the intuition to pick a winner, proving the naysayers wrong.

Similarly, when Eastfield Ming Quong (EMQ) was preparing to bring Wraparound Services to California in order to move 100 plus youth out of group homes to family-based care, Marilyn again approached me and encouraged me to launch the service. I contacted the director of EMQ and was able to get a couple FCNI staff, Marilyn and several other county social workers included in their training program. She also convinced Social Services administration to launch a pilot Wraparound program with the Family Care Network she called WISH (Wraparound Intensive Services in-Home). When “Wraparound” became an official California program in 1998, San Luis Obispo County was ready to roll, becoming the third provider in California. Since then, we have served 1,100 youth and families with a 90+ % success rate.

There are certainly many examples of Marilyn’s insistence on FCNI providing other new and innovative programs, along with a long list of encouragements and contributions. In truth, there has been no other single person from outside our agency who has been as influential as Marilyn!

I’m sure I join a sizable group in saying, I will miss Marilyn Stein. So will the Family Care Network. But her legacy will continue well into the future through the programs and services she played an important role in getting started.