Like its predecessors, the 31st year of the Family Care Network has been amazing, challenging and extraordinarily fruitful. We began the year with our grand celebration of the passing our 30 year milestone–oh, what a wonderful experience. We were quite humbled to be recognized by so many entities, including our San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, all of our state representatives, officials and members of Congress, along with many local business leaders and community partners. It was definitely a time for celebrating; but for me, it was also a critical time to focus on our future and what our next 30 years might look like!
The first big step forward we took as we began year 31 was to engage the services of a very specialized, nationally recognized fundraising consultant to conduct an assessment of our organization. Her charge was to determine if we were ready to establish a major fund-development campaign, and if not, what needed to do to get there. So, in the first week of July, our consultant converged on the organization and literally scrutinized everything we were doing in regards to fundraising, donor engagement, volunteerism, as well as assessing our financial picture. After several months of analysis, asking lots of great questions and requesting supplemental documentation, she produced a 90 page report with a full recommendation!
The long and short of the report concluded that she was very impressed with our ability to demonstrate 30 years of very positive impact on the community, successful programs, incredible outcomes, and excellent management and administration, but we needed a lot of work to improve our fundraising capacity. Basically, we learned we had a great message to sell, but lacked the skill, know-how and infrastructure to properly communicate how this translates into meeting our fiscal needs. We took everything to heart and began an aggressive effort to retool, refocus, and move forward.
It goes without saying–our fund-development activities have been a dominant theme and energy driver over this year!
In the fall of 2017, we implemented another new initiative in partnership with the Community Foundation, San Luis Obispo County (SLOCF): the Navigators Program. Navigators is a partnership with a private family foundation, SLOCF and FCNI to provide scholarships to graduating foster youth coupled with mentors (Navigators) to help guide, support and encourage the youth as they embarked upon higher education. What an awesome way to mobilize the community to greatly enhance these youth’s potential for success!
Over the holiday season, we had probably our largest, most successful Holiday Party, and with the generous help of our community, we were able to provide gifts, food and fun to hundreds of children youth and families!
Aside from fund-development, this is been the “year of the workshop!” It began when I was asked to provide a webinar through the Family Focused Treatment Association on “Leadership in Chaotic Times,” with nearly 200 participants. In December, California officially launched the Intensive Services Foster Care program. Unfortunately, most private providers and counties were completely unaware of what to do or how to do it. In response to this, the Family Care Network jumped in to fill the gap, providing one webinar, one all-day training session, and one conference workshop. As a result of these efforts, we were inundated with request for training, consultation, on-site visits and input into the broader state implementation process. These types of training and consultation are a good thing, and an area where we want to continue to grow in our ability to serve and strengthen other organizations!
In other workshop related activity, we were involved in presenting at the national Child Welfare League conference in Washington DC, and in providing two workshops at the 12th statewide Partnership for Excellence conference. (This was our 11th time presenting at this conference.) Additionally, FCNI hosted numerous on-site training sessions, important community meetings, and special events for the youth we serve and our foster parents.
This was also a year characterized by, “What do we do with these kids?” Seriously, we had more children and youth come into our care with serious emotional needs, severe trauma, and very difficult, extremely challenging behaviors. These cases created a crisis–how do we serve these foster youth without the proper resources? The lack of foster parents and proper funding became mission critical! The lack of homes had become so bad, it seemed like almost every week we were needing to rent motel rooms or having to utilize our housing apartments, placing qualified staff with these youth 24/7 to supervise and stabilize. In an effort to ameliorate this challenged, we created a unique partnership with San Luis Obispo Social Services, establishing a Memorandum of Understanding to conduct all of our foster parent recruitment jointly. This effort produced five quality recruitment videos designed to cover the spectrum of foster parenting needs and opportunities.
On the fiscal side, I continued to be a relentless advocate for proper funding for not only our foster care program services, but also for our youth housing programs. My message, along with my peers, was loud and clear: we need a transitional housing rate structure which takes into account the fact that we are serving very, very difficult youth with inadequate funding to provide the supervision, services and supports necessary to prevent their program failure. Interestingly, the youth “legal advocate” community message was, “Why are so many transitional housing youth being removed from their programs and made homeless?” These two messages really addressed the same fiscal, services level issue, to which the state has promised to “look into it!”
Back to our fund-development efforts, we launched an initiative to hire a well-qualified Development Director. With excellent work from our HR Director and the help of our consultant, we landed an amazing candidate to anchor this critical role–Nancy Nichols is her name. Coinciding with this effort, we also brought in a brand-new team of Community Resource Development staff, creating the absolutely best, most competent Resource Engagement team in our history. I speak for our Board of Directors and Executive Team, when I state how excited we are to take the next big step into creating a very stable financial future for the Family Care Network!
This past fiscal year--2017/2018--was also marked by outstanding outcomes and positive impact with those in our care. It’s too early to get our final 2017/2018 numbers, but in a cursory review, we have served nearly 2,000 children, youth and families with a 90% + success rate. All other activities aside, this is why we exist–to enhance the wellbeing of children and families in partnership with our community. Special thanks to everyone who contributed to this year’s success!