Strengthening Our Core – 1990/1991

Strengthening Our Core – 1990/1991

  • Posted by Famcare
  • On January 24, 2017

Since day one, the Family Care Network has had some form of a Strategic Plan and strategic planning process. Seriously, strategic planning has been an integral part of our organizational growth and development, providing us a pathway into the future and a window to look back upon our progress and successes. Our strategic planning has always created a very clear vision of what our organization could and should become.

In the early years, our strategic thinking was principally focused on how we could achieve better outcomes for our kids, how could we improve our support and training of our foster families, and how we could attract more involvement and participation from our community. On the first goal, our clinical staff led by Ken Schwartzenberger, did some amazing research into the “best practices” of our time – what was producing the best outcomes for challenged children and youth. We soon began incorporating new therapeutic practices, including Projective Interventions and Play Therapy in addition to our regular individual, group and family counseling.

To better educate our team, as well as our local therapeutic community, FCNI sponsored several all-day training sessions with high profile clinical educators at the local Embassy Suites. These were very successful, and went a long way in reinforcing our organization’s credibility in the local clinical world. Additionally, Ken and one of our social workers, Karen Lanners, wrote and published a book of therapeutic stories for foster children, which Karen also illustrated. This book was also very well received.

Improving foster parents skills and support has always been a high priority and strategic objective. As our services grew in the Santa Maria area of northern Santa Barbara County, we soon realized we needed a sub- office there so we could work with our clients and foster parents in their community. Obtaining such, enabled us to provide foster parent training and support groups, along with client counseling, eliminating the need for families to drive all the way to San Luis Obispo.

Another very important strategic goal of that period of time was the development of a comprehensive foster parent handbook, in essence, a “cookbook” for therapeutic foster parenting. Precipitating this was the fact that I was being bombarded with after-hour foster parent calls, many of which could be eliminated if we provided more information and resources for the parents to use. To accomplish this, I convened a group including our staff, a select group of foster parents and several community members. This was an amazing, effective work group.

We soon developed an outline and I began writing. As I would write chapters, the group would review them and make suggestions and updates. This process went on for nearly a full year before the “Parent-Therapist, A Handbook for Therapeutic Foster Parents” was ready to be to be distributed. We even had a professor from Cal Poly edit our manuscript. The end product was a hit–easy to read, easy to update, but more importantly, it became a valuable resource tool for our treatment foster parents. This manuscript has been updated multiple times to stay current with changes in law, regulations and best practices, and was formally published as the “Therapeutic-Parent” in 2012, and a year or so later in Spanish.

Our organization also developed several other resources for supporting our foster parents. This included creating a core curriculum course entitled “RET – Relationship Enhancement Training,” an updated version of this is still in use today, now called “CARES.” We also developed several other foster parent training modules and a very creative monthly newsletter called the “CARE-Connection.” This was chock-full of information and even contained a cartoon family series called “The Matters Family” which provided solutions to typical foster parent issues and challenges in a very entertaining format.

Given that community integration has always been a high priority for our organization, as reflected in our Mission Statement “… in partnership with our community,” we continued to grow and build relationships. Our organization became part of the San Luis Obispo County Child Abuse Prevention Council and regularly participated with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission. We joined the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce and a monthly group of local Nonprofit Executives. FCNI also hosted a monthly, informal luncheon for local therapist and clinicians to get together to share strategies, best practices, challenges and solutions. One of the most significant advents this year, was being invited to participate in a workgroup to create the San Luis Obispo County Children’s Services Network Council (CSN). This was a multiyear process which had an incredibly effective outcome!

The Family Care Network has also maintained very strong working relationships with the Faith Community as a primary source for recruiting our foster families. As a means of giving back for the tremendous support we had received, we began offering and providing classes on parenting teens and parenting in general, dealing with crises and managing difficult behaviors. This is an approach we have attempted to maintain over our three decades.

Good planning and big dreams;  skilled, creative and passionate staff; amazing dedicated foster parents; and burgeoning key relationships forming within the community, were all working together to strengthen the organization to better serve children and youth. By the end of Fiscal Year 1990/91, the Family Care Network had served 194 children and youth. We experienced an 88% success rate in our foster care program and a 90% in our school-based counseling program.