- Posted by Famcare
- On April 11, 2017
- 0 Comments
One of the hallmarks of the Family Care Network story has been my untethered willingness to venture into uncharted waters. As I have learned, taking risk can be both an asset and a liability.
In the summer of 2001, I was approached by an individual representing a very large church located in Bakersfield. He indicated that his congregation was very committed to working with foster children and youth through their Royal Families Kids Camp program. He further stated that they had been researching foster care providers and that our organization came out on the top of their list as one they would like to partner with – to open an FFA office in Bakersfield.
I was flattered by the offer, but cautious. After numerous meetings with the leadership team from this church and our Board of Directors, and several meetings with County Social Services and Probation administrators, a decision was made to move forward with applying for a sub-office license to be located in facilities they agreed to provide. Thus, we were returning to Kern County with what appeared to be an excellent opportunity to serve that community by replicating several of the programs that were succeeding on the Central Coast. I had anticipations and reservations!
The individual who had originally approached me became our Regional Director. We hired staff, were quickly licensed and began recruiting/certifying families. Initially, all of the families were members of this church. Once we were on a roll, all went very well, until it didn’t. More about this story later…
First, for as long as I had been in San Luis Obispo County, there was a very pronounced need for some type of residential crisis intervention program for children and youth. The County General Hospital had a psychiatric unit, but it was not approved for kids, and, frankly, was an awful place to put a child or youth. This issue was discussed routinely at the Children’s Services Network without much resolution. Finally, a small team from Social Services, Mental Health and Probation was sent to visit other counties which had crisis-stabilization programs.
As a result of this fact-finding effort, County Mental Health, in partnership with Social Services released a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a six-bed Crisis-Stabilization group home, and sweeten the deal by indicating that the County would pay an additional rate because six-bed group homes were cost prohibitive.
After two unsuccessful RFP releases (nobody applied), I approached County Mental Health with my own proposal – to use Therapeutic Foster Care under the Intensive Treatment Foster Care (ITFC) program to provide this service, but with the additional County augmentation. They issued the RFP a third time, I submitted our proposal and it was accepted. Now the work began.
Through networking with community partners and friends, I was able to locate a very large, six bedroom home which had been on the rental market for some time. My plan was to find a family to anchor the Crisis Stabilization-TFC program in that home, subletting it to them for a nominal fee. To my surprise, we were able to quickly identify an existing TFC family who was willing to relocate. We soon were up and running.
As with many great endeavors, this effort was not without its significant challenges. Under the ITFC statutes, the foster home capacity is capped at one or two placements with limited exceptions. I assumed we could obtain permission from the County to go to six since it was a county authorized program. Unfortunately, I got push back and resistance, even though they had approved the model. Live and learn!
It became clear that the County really wanted their Crisis-Stabilization group home and basically forced our hand to pursue group home licensing. We did so, and our foster parents became house parents and we embarked on a service model that I loathed–for the second time! Had I lost my senses and good judgment? Needless to say, this group home was not a pleasant experience. It was very expensive, difficult to manage and staff, and we ended up having a very difficult time with the endeavor for various reasons.
The recession became our release from this nightmare. Because of reduced revenues, the County administrator was belt-tightening and wanted to cut the annual augmentation for this program. I developed a two pronged strategy: first, use CSN to launch a broad-based grassroots advocacy with the County Board; and, second, propose an alternative–six individualized TFC families. We succeeded on both accounts, maintaining the annual augmentation, closing the group home, and shifting placements and referrals to certified TFC families. Thus, our Crisis-Stabilization Foster Care (CFC) program was formally birthed.
There’s something to be said about keeping true to Mission and Purpose – “mission drift” has its consequences. The Family Care Network was established to provide Therapeutic Foster Care as an efficacious, family-based alternative to institutional treatment services. Children and youth are always better served in families, preferably their own. On two occasions now, we “drifted” from this fundamental, core practice and paid the price for it. Fortunately, there was clearly a positive outcome from these deviations – it really solidified the viability and acceptance of TFC. While it had taken 12 years for our government partners to be fully convinced that group homes were not the default “treatment” for foster children manifesting emotional and behavioral problems, it was now fully embraced that family-based services are best for kids, becoming the default treatment service.
By the end of 2001/2002, the Family Care Network was operating 12 distinct programs, had served 1,253 children, youth and families, was averaging an 86% aggregate success rate, and had grown to about 100 employees.