- Posted by Famcare
- On March 7, 2017
- 0 Comments
One of the things I have most enjoyed about shepherding the Family Care Network is the opportunity to innovate and be creative; it’s just my nature. Being innovative, imaginative and creative within the organization leads to organizational growth, vision, quality and performance improvement and a healthy work environment. Collaborative Innovation produces systemwide change, improvements and new ideas which benefit the whole of our broader communities. Both are essential and both are very enjoyable, productive activities.
The late nineties proved to be a rich time of collaborative innovation. The Children’s Services Network served as a catalyst for multiple initiatives designed to better serve specific populations. Juvenile Justice, CWS, education, family preservation, transitional housing, mental health services, were a few of the workgroups the Family Care Network was engaged in. It was actually amazing to see the traditional walls and silos come down, and people beginning to work together across agencies. Self-preservation was slowly being replaced with a broader view of meeting community needs collectively!
CSN as a Collaborative was really beginning to mature. The information learned through the Policy Academies was being interjected into Council operations. Consultants were brought in to provide workshops on strategic planning, community engagement, data collection and utilization; even “blended -funding.” A mantra for this period was “collaboration is not just talking nice to each other, it’s coming to the table with a checkbook, commitment and allowing our computers to talk to each other!”
For the Family Care Network, being part of this transformational process was an honor. Our agency’s status grew from being just another nonprofit provider, to being a valued community-based organization and significant player in the creation of a very effective service delivery model which resulted in much improved outcomes for children, youth and families in San Luis Obispo County.
It was during this time frame that the Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act was passed which produced substantial changes in Child Welfare Services. This legislation effectively elevated “permanency“ as a primary system goal, in an attempt to end the decades-old practice of putting children in foster care until they became adults. This change also ushered in the era of ”Concurrent Planning” where every child in foster care had two case plans: one for family reunification and one for permanency, (i.e., adoptions, when reunification was not possible or failed).
Once again, our collaborative innovation went to work. Strategies were developed with Social Services on how we would approach our families to assist in the family reunification process, using foster parents to help mentor and train biological family. Additionally, a practice was initiated to educate families about adoptions. This fit the family care model perfectly. It was my belief right from the beginning, that foster care should only be used as a short-term intervention for the purpose of moving children to a permanent family as soon as possible.
As part of this effort, the WISH program was used as a service to strengthen families after reunification occurred. We were also able to assign a full-time In-home Behavioral Counselor to Social Services to participate in their family preservation and reunification process.
One of the very positive outcomes of Concurrent Planning, was the emergence of Family Care Network families willing to adopt. This willingness was certainly a bit of a deviation from our Therapeutic Foster Care approach, but what a wonderful outcome for foster children to end up with a “forever family.”
On one occasion, a sibling group of four children was placed with our organization – these kids had very significant needs and challenging behaviors. Through our therapeutic interventions and specialized foster parent training, these children’s behaviors stabilized and became much more manageable. After being placed with our foster family, a local pastor and his wife, for about a year, it became apparent that family reunification was not going to be an option. Thus, the family was approached with the prospect of adopting. Having several children of their own already, this was a big consideration – but they felt called to do it and proceeded to adopt these children. Except for some challenges with the oldest sibling in her teenage years, this adoption was very successful!
Another very heartwarming story involved a single mom with physical disabilities. Her first placement was a young boy who was also physically disabled. It was a match made in heaven which very quickly moved to adoption. After the adoption was finalized, she continued to provide foster care until it became physically too challenging. Over the years, she has continued to stay in contact with the Family Care Network, and almost every year since its inception, she and her son have participated in our Miracle Miles for Kids event.
These are just a few of many stories of Family Care Network families adopting their foster children. Over the years, over 300 children have found “forever families” through our organization – a statistic our organization is very proud of!
In 1996/97 the Family Care Network served 323 children, youth and families, with a 90% success rate. 323 children, youth and families who were truly the beneficiaries of Innovative Collaboration.