- Posted by Famcare
- On April 25, 2017
- 0 Comments
In less than three years, the Family Care Network had grown from around 30 employees to well over 100; and, from serving around 400 children, youth and families annually, to over 1200. With multiple programs and funding streams, our accounting requirements had become very complex. In addition to building our programs and ensuring their efficacy and fidelity, all of our infrastructure was being taxed–IT, facilities, communications, workspace, meeting space, parking, HR, training, et cetera. To say the least, it was an interesting challenge!
I’ve always been a firm believer that challenges and problems should be viewed as opportunities to innovate and find solutions. And being innovative is exactly what we did during this timeframe. These challenges offered us an opportunity to build capacity and internal fortitude.
As a compulsive planner, I have made sure that the Family Care Network has always had a strategic plan in place. Now was the time to raise the bar and use our planning process not only for visioning, but for improving efficiencies and building the infrastructure necessary to support our growth. We basically put our entire operation under the microscope in order to identify flaws, gaps, needs, policy and procedure shortcomings, as well as strengths. Based on this assessment process, we developed specific objectives and a series of tasks required to achieve these objectives. What follows are several key areas targeted in our capacity building efforts:
Our first order of business was to secure more workspace; after one year, we had already outgrown our “larger” new headquarters. Fortunately, there was an ideal workspace available within the business complex we were located, about 50 feet from our front entrance. We were now spread out in three separate buildings, but digitally connected with high-speed fiber. Another real “gift” to the organization was the fact that all of these facilities were replete with desk, cubicles, tables and chairs; all remnant from the dot-com explosion and the rapid exodus of prior tenets, providing us a huge savings.
Next, meeting our technology needs became a high priority; having computer access for our employees was absolutely “mission-critical.” Up to this point we had gotten by with a half-time IT person and a network consultant. Now was the time to bite the bullet and hire a skilled, full-time IT Manager. And we did. His name was Will Steffenauer. Under his guidance, we abandoned the use of most desktop computers and opted to use terminal servers instead, a more cost-effective and manageable system. Will was brilliant – setting up our network and computer system, helping to negotiate a great cell phone contract, managing our facilities and getting us up-to-date software, including much-needed accounting software.
FCNI was also struggling with maintaining a functional website. We resolved this by hiring a Cal Poly student as part-time web developer. Interestingly, he was our next-door neighbor and a childhood friend to our oldest son when we lived out of the area some 15+ years earlier. It was complete serendipity that he ended up at the Family Care Network.
Also, 10 years earlier, I had written the specifications and requirements for a client-management database we desperately needed, and contracted with another Cal Poly, Masters level, student, Alan Vogan, to create it for us. With guidance from a Board member, Dale Matheny, a retired systems analyst and programmer, Care Shepherd™ was born. The original database was written in Access, which worked fine when we were a small, one program shop. Now, with multiple programs, our database had outgrown Access capabilities. So, we hired a Korean brother and sister team, Randy and Amy Kim, to begin upgrading Care Shepherd™ to a new platform which could accommodate our complicated information management needs.
One of the biggest challenges resulting from operating multiple programs, was the fluctuation in caseloads. We would hire and train staff to operate within a specific program based on anticipated caseload projections. As caseloads dropped in one program, our revenues would drop but not our expenses due to our fixed staff. Conversely, in programs which were rapidly growing, we would not have enough staff to meet client needs.
Using the Family Care Network signature “think tank” process, we created an ingenious solution! From that point forward, we cross-trained all of our employees to work in every program and implemented a scheduling system. We would shift employees in and out of programs based on caseloads and client needs, even on a daily basis as client needs would increase or contacts were canceled. Our first Scheduler, Christine Zurbach, was amazing. She put 110% into making this new system work for several years until leaving to work with orphan children in the Ukraine.
Early in my Probation career, I became an administrator and consequently a “policy and procedure” geek. For over a decade, I was responsible for writing and updating all of the P & P for our juvenile services division. This skill translated very well into my role at the Family Care Network. During our program expansions, I was constantly creating and/or updating our Operation Manuals, while our COO, Jon Nibbio, made sure people knew them and followed them. As we have grown, this responsibility has been absorbed by others, but it remains an ongoing strategic objective of our agency.
On the program side, we upgraded our training and skill building, and continued to grow. One very important initiative we launched was to bring in state “Wraparound” consultants to facilitate several “Wraparound Reality” seminars. These workshops were very effective in creating a shared, multi-agency understanding and commitment to Wraparound Principles, Philosophy and practices which totally transformed our Children’s System of Care! Awesome.
As 2002-2003 came to an end, Family Care Network’s infrastructure and capacity had grown substantially. We continued to operate 12 distinct programs serving 1150 children, and youth and families with an 85% success rate; we averaged 110-120 employees and we had over 200 community members helping with kids and/or events.