On June 30th, 2020, the Family Care Network completed its 33rd year as a Public Benefit corporation serving the Central Coast. We started the year with great plans, were moving forward right on schedule, making remarkable progress, excited about the future, and then boom – everything seemed to explode! This is life, it happens to all of us, the Family Care Network is no exception. The operative question – what is our capacity to rise to the occasion and meet the day-to-day challenges head-on, undaunted, and without complaint? In essence, can we persevere? Welcome to FY 2019/2020, FCNI Year 33!
Publisher and author, B.C. Forbes, put it this way, “History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their setbacks and challenges.” I like this because it embraces the spirit, tenacity, attitude, and drive of the Family Care Network: I believe we are the embodiment of “Undaunted Perseverance.”
FY 2019/20 started out on a roll, jumping out of the starting gate ahead. We had just finished a financially solid fiscal year, referral rates were good, contracts were in place with probably one of the most stable workforces we had ever experienced. Esprit de corps and morale were high, and we had a very aggressive, well thought through Strategic Plan in place. And then – the Covid-19, pandemic happened!
Obviously, no one saw this coming, nor the potential negative impact it would have. Our intensive, face-to-face client services had to cease, staff hiring and training was seriously impaired, client service hours and caseloads tumbled, fundraising activities had to be rapidly retooled, staff support and interconnectivity were challenged, and we needed to quickly make significant changes to our operations and facilities to become “Covid-19 compliant.” Nonetheless, we responded rapidly, coalescing our creativity, energy, and efforts in a marvelous fashion.
As stated, 2019/20 had a great start. In August, we conducted our best Benefit for Kids fundraiser ever. We successfully made the transition from a transactional to a philanthropic, donor-driven event. This was such a shot in the arm of encouragement after years of struggling. Our fall “Sponsor a Child” initiative was also much more effective. Unfortunately, our new Development Director took leave of the agency in December for personal reasons and never returned. This year being characterized as “Undaunted Perseverance,” our Director of Corporate Affairs and CRD team mobilized quickly to keep our momentum moving forward. This was no easy task since we were precluded from doing our annual Miracle Miles for Kids, rock-to-pier 10K, and 2020 Benefit for Kids fundraisers!
At the beginning of 2020, we were notified by the County that our Behavioral Services contract for youth services, multiple programs we have been providing since the mid-90s, was being put up for competitive bid. Fully understanding why this was occurring, this was still a bit of a shock. It had never been done before and would entail a significant amount of work. In the spirit of “Undaunted Perseverance,” we pulled together a small team, including a skilled proposal writer, and went right to work. It was really a good process, causing us to scrutinize all of our activities, make improvements, and expand our budget to truly cover our cost. Our proposal was submitted early, but with Covid-19, the county didn’t make a decision until about two weeks before the end of the fiscal contract year. The good news, we were awarded a multi-year contract.
Advocacy, under the umbrella of the California Alliance of Child & Family Services (CACFS), was being highly effective. It appeared that the state Department of Social Services and Department of Finance was finally acquiescing to the fact that rate relief was necessary to maintain quality children’s programming which had been deteriorating due to underfunding. Excellent Bills were introduced in the legislature which appeared destined for passage, and the Governor proposed a very aggressive, supportive 2020/21 budget. He had proposed not only improvements in the foster care system funding but also, a complete restructuring of the system for delivering mental health services to children and youth. Very exciting. In February – everything looked so hopeful, and then...
A pandemic, really! The strength and efficacy of the Family Care Network, our ability to produce amazing outcomes, is driven by the one-on-one, face-to-face behavioral health and social services work we do with our children, youth, and families. Incredibly, an immediate obstacle is thrown in our pathway. Sticking to the theme of Undaunted Perseverance, we went to work immediately to make sure that there were no disruptions in services and supports to our vulnerable clients, already impacted by trauma, to ensure their wellbeing.
All of our direct services staff were provided devices so that they could maintain “virtual” face-to-face contact. Now working remotely, our clinical staff were calling and contacting clients sometimes multiple times per day. We quickly secured all of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) we could get our hands-on, knowing that some direct contact was inevitable. A group of seamstresses sewed hundreds of masks which were distributed to staff and clients. And, we worked very closely with our County partners, who were magnificent, to ensure the health and safety of everyone.
It seems like overnight we were able to transform our facilities to conform to new requirements. Thermal readers were installed, offices reconfigured, intensive cleaning procedures implemented – it was an amazing, effective effort!
I began working closely with CACFS staff who were aggressively engaging all of the key state departments and leaders. They mobilized a weekly, virtual CEO meeting to coordinate with the state and between agencies. The pandemic produced a recession, blew the Governor’s budget out of the water and created significant financial stress at the state and county levels. Fortunately, California had a significant “rainy day fund” in reserve, which helped with some of the anticipated deficits. Most importantly, provider and advocate pressure was successful in mitigating some of the financial losses and maintaining essential, “entitlement” programs, basically, those FCNI provides. We ended the fiscal year under brutal, uncertain fiscal circumstances, but with a strong public-private coalition committed to ensuring critical service delivery for our vulnerable populations would not be disrupted.
I am so proud of our Family Care Network staff, especially my Executive Team, for the incredible work that was done to maintain a semblance of “normalcy” in this extraordinarily abnormal time. Thousands of untold hours have been spent writing and creating policy, training staff, making physical modifications, and working tirelessly to serve our children, youth, and families while keeping themselves safe. Remarkably, our success rate for 2019/2020 was the highest ever, serving 1667 with a 95% success rate!
We are not out of the storm yet; it is intensifying, raging, and ravaging. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? I believe so. More importantly, I have a strong conviction that as we stay focused on our mission to “enhance the well-being of children and families in partnership with our community,” combined with our Undaunted Perseverance, we will overcome this and emerge stronger, and more effective than when it began.