- Posted by Famcare
- On March 28, 2017
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The fruits of effective strategic planning, collaboration, Children’s Services Network efforts and building community partnerships were ripening fast. At the beginning of 1999, the Family Care Network was operating 10 programs and would soon add four additional services. Momentum was building fast toward a major transformation of our organization to a diverse, multidimensional, child, youth and family agency; the culmination of a 12 year process.
The first major addition to our service delivery continuum was becoming San Luis Obispo County’s Emergency Shelter Care provider. For decades, children and youth taken into protective custody were placed in a group home and not with a family. In late 1999, FCNI and another FFA were approached about taking on the County’s Shelter Program. When the second agency backed out, we became the sole provider. Shelter Care was a 24/7 operation, using a two-child per foster family model with substantial support to both the children and the family. Right from the start, this approach was incredibly successful, almost eliminating the incidents of runaway and moving children and youth quickly out of shelter care.
Interestingly, our first cadre of Emergency Shelter Parents were all “empty-nesters” who wanted to still work with kids even though theirs were grown and gone. This pattern continued for several years before we added some families with biological children still at home. One family with three teenage sons, the Willards, would eventually end up adopting several of the children placed in their care.
One of the most significant efforts during this timeframe was fully orchestrating the implementation of SB 163 – Wraparound Services. As previously mentioned, a Children’s Services Network workgroup had been crafting the San Luis Obispo Wraparound Plan for over a year. As this work culminated, I was asked to synthesize the workgroup’s discussion and decision-making, and write the County’s plan for approval by the County’s Board of Supervisors and the state. This was completed in the fall of 1999, giving us plenty of time to prepare and launch Wraparound early in 2000.
Our Wraparound Program, called Familia de Novo (reconstructed or made-new family) was truly unique for a number of reasons. First, it created an effective public-private partnership between the Family Care Network, Social Services, Probation and Mental Health, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Even though FCNI was the direct service provider, program success depended on everybody performing to expectation. Every agency was committed and signed on to a “whatever it takes” approach.
Second, Familia de Novo included a Community Resource Development component designed to secure goods, services and essential connections from the community to support our families as part of the process to make them self-sufficient and community dependent, no longer “system” dependent. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods and services has been donated!
Third, the plan established a Mentoring Program, providing another new opportunity for members of the community to work directly with children, youth and families to enhance their individual successes.
Finally, Familia de Novo was responsible for completely transforming the County “Children’s System of Care,” whereby every partner agency adopted the Essential Elements of Wraparound within their respective service delivery models.
Familia de Novo was a dream come true – literally! I remember a strategic planning meeting at my home in the early nineties where we all agreed that it would be our goal to provide the same type of intensive services to youth in their own families as we did in our foster families, without knowing how this could ever be possible. Now, it was about to become reality!
We were very surprised and pleased that Community Care Licensing approved our application for a Transitional Housing Placement Program (THPP) license very quickly. In fact, our Licensing Analyst said it was the most complete application package she had ever received. I believe FCNI became the first or second licensed THPP program after it was opened up as a statewide program.
Once licensed, the work began to secure rental property. This task, however, proved to be a formidable challenge. In essence, convincing landlords to rent to us so that we could place 16-18-year-old youth in their living units was difficult! Once again, we drew upon our existing relationships within the community and were soon able to secure housing to launch the program. Since THPP had no “startup” funding, we were completely dependent upon the generosity of our community, service clubs, churches and a small family foundation to enable us to purchase everything we needed to fully furnish and equip these living units.
Soon after we began placing and serving transitional age youth, we discovered a serious flaw in our program design. While we were providing very intensive, seven-days per week supervision and contact, it wasn’t enough. We had an incident where several youth allegedly began selling drugs and threw a big late-night party which caused several thousands dollars worth of damage! Lessons learned. We immediately began to recruit Residential Advisors (RAs) to live in each unit. This program change proved to be a win-win. Well vetted individuals were provided a place to live, giving us eyes and ears, and real-time supervision.
One amazing THPP story involved a probation youth who was deaf. We were able to find him an RA who could sign. After a year or so in our care, this young man was released from probation and enrolled in college.
Along with THPP, our Therapeutic Behavioral Services continue to grow, requiring our organization to secure additional office space to accommodate our burgeoning staff. Our little Victorian office on the creek in San Luis Obispo was so crowded, that we used to joke about needing “bunk-desk” in order to fit everyone. By the end of the year, we were located in three different office facilities.
FCNi also saw another school-based service opportunity emerge. Given the long-standing successful relationship we enjoyed with the County Office of Education, originating with the Mainstream Youth Program, we were asked to provide counseling, and family support services in each of their four Community School program sites. The youth entered into a Community School as a result of truancy or behavioral problems in the public school system. The goal of this service was to assist these youth in completing specific goals necessary to return to the mainstream school system. In our first year, we served over 400 youth with an 85% success!
I look at 1998/2000 as a significant embryonic period in Family Care Network’s history. We had a number of brand-new programs in their “embryonic” state, on their way to becoming essential elements in our local Children’s System of Care.
We ended the year operating 14 unique programs, serving 979 children, youth and families, with a 91% success rate!