Managing Growth – 2007/2008–Year 21

From fiscal year 2005/2006 to the end of fiscal year 2006/2007, the Family Care Network was serving 51% more children, youth and families. And our year 21 would produce another 17% in growth. On one hand, it was wonderful that we were able to serve more children, youth and families within our community, but on the other hand, managing our growth and maintaining program fidelity and efficacy was absolutely mission-critical.

I want to digress for a moment and share the management philosophy and practice that I have applied throughout my professional career. I have always operated on the premise that an organization is like a living organism which needs to be fed and nurtured in order to grow and be healthy. To borrow the words of Bob Dylan, “That which is not busy being born is busy dying.” My job has been to make sure that the Family Care Network is “busy being born” – it’s all about managed growth. Growth, however, is not just about size or capacity, it is about efficiencies, improved outcomes and results.

Another way of stating my practice is “Managed Chaos!” I believe it is necessary to interject change which produces chaos in order to prevent organizational stagnancy. Change-chaos must be balanced with responsible management to maintain organizational order. Effective Management is a three legged stool: 1) Managing Change, 2) Managing Complexity, and 3) Managing Performance. Our Year 21 was about aligning and effectively managing change, complexity and performance.

Beginning around 2000, we implemented a very comprehensive Continuous Quality Improvement Plan (CQI) wherein we have established indicators to measure just about everything we do; programs, training, finance, HR, recruitment, volunteers, and even IT. The CQI plan and our dynamic Strategic Planning process provided the tools for orchestrating our growth management process.

One of the primary objectives from this year was to update all of our Policy, Procedure and Operations manuals. Even though most of these were done during our Accreditation process, we realized that this is really an ongoing process in order to keep up with changes in regulations, law and best practices. Ten manuals were updated, plus, we implemented a system for staff to have digital access to these documents, eliminating the need for reprinting whenever changes and updates were completed.

Infrastructure improvements were also in order. We updated computer systems, communications and workspace. We had outgrown our office building but were fortunate enough to acquire contiguous space to accommodate our growing workforce. It was also at this time that we decided to aggressively pursue the development of long-term, permanent facilities. We needed a solution to hedge against increased space demands and escalating rental rates.

In addition to the CQI as a tool to monitor program fidelity and results, we ramped up our Internal Auditing efforts. This was a critical step towards “audit proofing” all of our medical records to ensure there would be no disallowed billing. It was also our goal to maintain the highest level of compliance with state licensing regulations as well as accreditation standards. In nearly 20 years as a state approved Children’s Specialty Mental Health provider, we have not had one disallowed billing entry requiring a repayment.

The exorbitant cost of rental housing on the Central Coast was also putting a strain on our transitional housing program budgets. Consequently, we launched another effort to secure one or two additional housing units, especially mindful that the process can take one or two years to complete. We were specifically looking for a housing unit in the city of San Luis Obispo, while we waited for state approval for property we secured in Atascadero.

Since we were now conducting two major fundraising events per year and were desirous of growing community integration and support of our efforts, I decided to enhance this process by contracting for three AmeriCorps workers. This turned out to be a fantastic decision. The individuals who were selected were incredible, extremely competent and added greatly to our efforts. One AmeriCorps worker, Shay Peck, a retired schoolteacher, went on to volunteer for many years, and is now a member of our Board of Directors. Remarkably, the other AmeriCorps workers ended up becoming FCNI employees after their term of service. All of them made huge contributions to our growth and efficiency.

Also during this timeframe, I had the opportunity to participate in writing legislation sponsored by the then State Senate President Pro tem, Darrell Steinberg. SB 1380 took the original Intensive Treatment Foster Care (ITFC) statutes and rewrote them the to conform to federal regulations and integrate “Best Practices.” This effort amounted to a major rewrite of old, outdated statutes, and, quite frankly, it was a lot of fun. The bill was passed by both houses of the legislature and was signed into law by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. My participation in this project also opened many new opportunities to be engaged in policy and legislation development at the state level.

It is a good reminder at this point to emphasize that all of the efforts initiated and completed in our Year 21 year were essentially about one thing–fulfilling our mission to enhance the wellbeing of children and families in partnership with our community. You can have the most efficient organization or the best legislation, but if it is not making a positive difference in the lives of the most vulnerable, trauma-impacted children, youth and families, it’s just busyness. Our 21st year was about improving our infrastructure and processes so that we were able to greatly improve our productivity!
In 200 7/2008, we served 2342 children, youth and families through 15 distinct programs. Remarkably, our aggregate success rate for all programs was 94%! We averaged over 140 employees per month and had 76 foster families provide care. Amazingly, we also had 650 volunteers donating 9140 hours during the year, and 1388 individuals contribute to our organization financially.