A System in Change – 2013-2014–Year 27

A System in Change – 2013-2014–Year 27

  • Posted by Famcare
  • On July 12, 2017

CHANGE is a byline of the Family Care Network’s story. One of our most substantial changes occurred in the fall of 2013–we moved into our beautiful, brand-new Administrative Headquarters. Orchestrating this move literally took nine months, or better, of very careful, painstaking planning. Fortunately, we were assisted in this process by an organizational pro, Serena Paulus. There was not one detail that Serena did not consider and plan for. As it turned out, we moved into our new building on my birthday–and what a great gift it was. We were assisted in our move by the County Sheriff’s Honor Farm crew, Meathead Movers, tons of community volunteers and, of course, our staff who weren’t working with clients.

What an incredibly positive change it was to see this long time strategic objective realized–we consolidated from three independent leased facilities into one location while gaining about 10,000 square feet of additional space – at less cost no less!

During this change, another very significant CHANGE was underfoot at the state level: Foster Care Reform. I started the Family Care Network based on a very rigid belief that most foster children and youth with serious emotional, mental health and behavioral needs are better served in a family-based model than they are in group homes or institutional care, and, at much less public expense. As previously discussed, we were the first private foster care provider in California to begin providing Therapeutic Foster Care. Now, 26 years later, the state was starting to wake up and embrace the concept.

I should note: California rarely does anything because it is a Best Practice or “the right thing to do”; motives are usually either fiscal or legal (i.e., they lost another lawsuit and are forced to). The first step in the state’s awakening was the impetus for California’s Continuum of (foster) Care Reform (CCR) process. The state had lost a significant lawsuit to the California Alliance of Child & Family Services which forced them to increase group home rates substantially. Consequently, the state legislature required the Department of Social Services to develop a plan to reduce group home placements in order to reduce statewide foster care expenditures. Regardless of CCR’s origin, it being launched was a significant move in the right direction.

Foster care across the country had been needing “reform” for decades. For too long, foster care was a “destination” instead of a short-term intervention leading to family reunification or permanency. Foster youth lingered in foster care–even group homes–for years. Most people know the “Boys Town” story, an orphanage for boys founded by Edward (Father) Flanagan in 1917 and immortalized in the 1938 movie of the same name starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. Unfortunately, the “orphanage” model has proven time and time again to not only be ineffective for youth, but actually traumatizing and damaging. Sadly, institutional change is very hard and very slow, thus, 100 years later and we are just now starting to see positive changes made!

As I previously mentioned, because of the Family Care Network’s experience, expertise and success with “family-based” care, I was invited to participate in California’s Reform Process. Initially, there were only two providers involved, myself and Bill Martone from Hathaway-Sycamores. As the process evolved, however, many others were invited to join. Even though the motive behind CCR with spurious, it really was an effective process embracing a broad array of stakeholders. Through multiple targeted-workgroups, the state did a good job of listening, but struggled rather conspicuously in assimilating the gathered information into a coherent strategy!

Consequently, the Alliance pulled together a small workgroup of CEOs and Directors, including me, to create a model for the state to consider. What followed was an intensive and thought-provoking, productive process–an expected outcome given the depth of experience, knowledge and wisdom represented in this group, coupled with very strong personalities and opinions! In the end, an excellent plan was developed which would ultimately shape the direction of the state plan and subsequent legislation. In a strategy to gain state acceptance, the Alliance partnered with the California Welfare Directors Association and several advocacy groups forming an effective coalition to successful convey and sell the plan.

Assembly Bill 403 was written and subsequently passed by the State Legislature, and signed by Governor Brown. In sum, CCR became the most pervasive reform of the foster care system–not only in California but nationally.

I have detailed the process of AB 403 as an example of a practice philosophy we have employed at the Family Care Network from very beginning–don’t wait for change to happen to you and then react, make it happen to our advantage! My strategy has always been to “keep my eyes on the horizon and my ear to the ground,” and try to stay one step of head of the field.

The only part of this entire Continuum of Care Reform process our organization has not played a role in helping to shape, has been the restructuring of the new Group Home design into Short-Term Residential Treatment Programs. Otherwise, we have been at the table or providing input in every other aspect of this massive systems change process. Consequently, there has been no learning curve or intensive preparation to rollout the new system–we have been ready and waiting.

In 2014,  the Family Care Network was featured at the statewide “Partnership for Excellence” conference as a model County public/private partnership collaboration, presenting in a plenary session and conference workshop. The California Welfare Directors Association partnered with us to provide a statewide webinar on providing In-Home Support Services under CCR, and the agency was invited to present two workshops at the national FFTA conference and one workshop at the California Alliance statewide conference. Additionally, given our expertise and success in providing Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC), I was invited by LA County to do a one-day conference presentation and multiple workshops on the topic, and was engaged as a consultant to help them develop TFC within their jurisdiction.

I previously discussed, the “Katie A” litigation had a major impact upon California’s Children’s System of Care. Once the case was settled, it took several years to roll out two of the three components ordered by the court – our year 27 was the year two of them launched. Again, through our very strong partnership with Social Services and Behavioral Health, “Intensive Home-Based Services” (IHBS) and “Intensive Care & Coordination” (ICC) were implemented, making available more services for children and youth in foster care. The Family Care Network was a natural choice to become the IHBS provider in our County, while ICC became embedded throughout our local system.

At the conclusion of 2013/2014, we had served 1577 children, youth and families through 17 programs, averaging around 170 employees and over 500 volunteers. More importantly, we achieved a 90% aggregate success rate with our very high-needs, at-risk population of clients.