Our 2018/2019 Fiscal Year has come and gone – completing the 32nd year of the Family Care Network. As time rushes by us in a blur, it makes one’s head spin. This past cycle of time was no exception. Thank goodness we have the opportunity to look backward and reach into our memory banks to focus once again on the blessings and lessons of our experiences.
Our 32nd year will forever serve as a milestone, a turning point in the annals of Family Care Network history. For the first time, we brought on board a bona fide Development Director to lead us into a new realm of fiscal stability. Nancy Nichols joined our team at the beginning of this fiscal year, bringing with her 30 plus years of experience and substantial expertise. As an “aging” founder, I have purposed and planned to build a strong financial base to carry us into our future, long beyond my years here. We finally made the first major step in that direction.
Venturing down this new pathway has been no small feat. In addition to Nancy, we ended up basically hiring almost a whole new Community Resources Development (CRD) team, and wow, we struck gold! I could not have asked for a better, more competent group of individuals. Everyone hit the ground running. We made some significant changes to our Benefit for Kids fundraising event to accommodate new staff and a very small event planning window. Remarkably, even though the event was smaller, fiscally it was fantastic! I took this as a great sign of things to come. So much was accomplished this past year with our CRD efforts--new practices, policies, board development, et cetera; it has virtually left us all in awe, and in great appreciation.
This past year also marks the fulfillment of another long-term pursuit. In 2005, the Mental Health Services Act was implemented in California. After a long planning process, San Luis Obispo implemented their programs in 2007. I applied to become the contractor for one of these services, the Full Services Partnership (FSP) program for children and youth. At the time, the County made the decision to split FSP services, with Family Care Network providing part of the program under a public/private partnership with the Behavioral Health department. This decision made for an excellent partnership.
For a variety of good reasons, the County put this program out for proposals again, and we were awarded the contract, launching the full program at the beginning of the fiscal year. The FSP launch was amazingly successful. By the end of the year, we were actually serving more youth and families than had ever been served at any given time in the past 12 years, and with excellent outcomes.
This past year also serves as another “milestone” year for me. I was elected as the 2019 President of the Family Focused Treatment Association (FFTA), the largest member organization of its type in the world. I was quite honored to be selected, having served on the FFTA Board for six years, five of which as the Public Policy Committee Chair. Serving in this capacity has definitely been much more work than I had anticipated – but it has been totally worth it. FFTA is a remarkable organization that I am very proud to have the Family Care Network be part of. The crowning jewel of this experience will hopefully be the passage of FFTA Treatment Family Services legislation, eight years in the making! As of this writing, it appears that the legislation should be passed by fall 2019.
Year 32, like many of its predecessors, was replete with challenges--administrative, programmatic and fiscal. Workforce issues have been ongoing, we’re always needing new staff to meet service needs, resulting from higher than usual turnover. Unfortunately, highly qualified staff can earn more with less responsibility in the public sector. It is very tough to compete with that! Complicating this issue has been the county’s and state’s inability, or unwillingness, to provide cost-of-living adjustments while we are facing ever increasing cost of doing business, especially with insurance, health and otherwise.
Over time I have learned not to be stressed out over these matters. In fact, I have seized the opportunity to make our case that as a Community-Based Organization, we really need the community to step up and help us serve the Central Coast. I appreciate public funding, but I really appreciate our community’s generosity in helping us achieve our mission! Which is perfect timing as we aggressively move forward with our Community Resource Development efforts.
I find it quite interesting looking back on our 32 years, seeing where we began to where we have ended up at this stage in our organization’s development. We started by introducing Therapeutic Foster Care, not only to the Central Coast, but to California! As a fledgling organization, this is all we did. Fast forward to today – Foster Care is a very small piece of our service delivery model. Why is this? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Both!
I learned early on that I could not sustain Family Care Network solely on providing Therapeutic Foster Care. We live in a small geographic area and cannot create the economies of scale necessary to maintain a single service foster care program. Plus, I had a much larger vision than foster care; what I really wanted to do was to keep kids in their community and in their own families. The good news about having a smaller foster care program is this: working with our County partners, we have developed a continuum of other services and programs to prevent kids from needing therapeutic foster care. And, Family Care Network is now serving the community with 20 different programs. My next big goal for the organization is to aggressively develop programs and services designed for strengthening families, providing them with whatever it takes to avoid family dishevel, disruption and the removal of children.
The downside of having a much smaller foster care service, is that we are now having a greater difficulty recruiting new foster families. We have created a great partnership with the Department of Social Services for recruiting new foster families, and we are working hard towards that end. In fact, we have partnered with Amazon and Cal Poly to utilize their Dx Hub “think tank” solution engineering program to create a process to greatly enhance and improve Foster parent recruitment. What an honor and privilege this involvement has been.
Fiscal Year 2018/2019 can certainly be characterized by new beginnings, new doors being opened, new challenges, new innovations, new partnerships and – Continued Success! We served over 2000 children, youth and families with a 93% success rate – an astonishing number when you realize that we serve the most challenged, traumatized and high-needs population on the Central Coast. Many thanks to the incredible Family Care Network staff, community volunteers and partner agencies for helping us to continue to “enhance the wellbeing of children and families, in partnership with our community!”
If you are interested in helping the children and families on the Central Coast, click here to see how you can get involved!