On August 21, 2012, the Family Care Network turned 25! It was certainly an amazing milestone to achieve–an incredible adventure to look back upon. Our organization had grown from a two-person, treatment foster care provider to a multidimensional, child, youth and family Community-Based Services organization. We were operating 17 distinct programs, had nearly 175 employees, 100 foster parents, averaged around 700 community volunteers and had served nearly 17,000 children, youth and families!
The most important fact about our 25 year history is that we had achieved an 89% cumulative success rate serving the most challenged, highest needs children, youth and families on the Central Coast. This achievement was certainly a reflection of and a credit to the most amazing, mission-focused, passionate and highly-skilled staff who made up the Family Care Network.
A few bits of “25 year” trivia:
- We had certified nearly 300 foster families;
- Over 200 foster children had been adopted by FCNI parents;
- Over 5,000 volunteers, tutors and interns had donated tens of thousands of hours supporting our mission;
- The organization had purchased six debt-free transitional housing apartments; and
- Over 18,000 community members had either walked or run 112,304 miles in our Miracle Miles for Kids events to date!
Relationships have always been our “story behind the story.” As the Family Care Network grew, it did so fully engaged with others. Excellent Relationships with our County partners produced stellar, model programs. Solid Relationships with our Community produced outstanding volunteer support. Highly successful fundraising events, and funneled critical goods and services to our clients helped meet their needs. Effective Relationships with Policy Makers helped to create public policy and legislation benefitting children, youth and families across the state. And, most importantly, quality Relationships with our clients produced positive life changes. To this point, it had been 25 years of Relationship Building!
In the fall of 2012, I was elected as the President of the California Alliance of Child & Family Services–an honor and an incredible opportunity to serve in a new capacity. This role proved to be one of my most endearing, positive experiences. The Alliance was then, and remains to this day, one of the most influential member organizations in the country, having incredible positive impact on our industry, and the lives of the children and youth we serve.
In my role as the Alliance President, and as a multi-services provider representative, I was invited to participate in the beginnings of California’s Continuum of (foster) Care Reform (CCR), an endeavor to create a whole new foster care system for the state. To this day, I remain involved in this effort. CCR was a daunting, exhaustive, sometimes frustrating process, but had an outstanding goal. For months on end, I traveled to Sacramento, sometimes weekly, to participate in the steering committee and multiple workgroups. Needless to say, CCR efforts are not yet complete and have yet to been fully implemented–five years later–but I feel thankful for having played a small role in shaping this systems transformation.
It was also in the fall of 2012 that I ventured to take the organization into a whole new arena, and pursued the acquisition of the state’s largest adoptions agency. For years, we’d seen many of our foster children adopted by our parents, but because we were not a licensed adoption agency, we were dependent upon the county or other private agencies to complete the process. Since Permanency is the goal of foster care, it only made sense to become a licensed Adoptions Agency.
So it became my strategy to possibly merge with an organization that already possessed the necessary adoption expertise, and had an outstanding track record and reputation. Through my Relationships in the Alliance, I found such an agency and, after initial talks, their Executive Director was eagerly willing to pursue a merge. As a result, we launched a long vetting and legal process with a target goal for our organizations to merge, with the Family Care Network remaining as the legal entity, while the absorbed agency remained as a subsidiary.
Our agency’s engaged the services of consulting firm in the Bay Area and went to work. In the end, I determined that this was not a viable decision, and instead began our own pursuit of a state Adoptions License. Don’t get me wrong, the agency we were pursuing this relationship with was (and still is) absolutely outstanding, with a wonderful history and performance record, and an incredible group of employees. However, through the vetting process, it was determined that the merge was just not a good fit for FCNI.
There were excellent lessons learned from this experience, however, and we ended up successfully securing our Adoptions Agency license. This experience also solidified in my mind a precept that has driven me in leading our organization over its first quarter-century, bigger is not necessarily better. Quality, excellent outcomes and effective community integration is much easier to achieve and maintain in a “Community-Based Organization” and not on a grand scale. In my observation of large, statewide organizations over time, I have absolutely seen this conviction be true.
Additionally, in 2012/2013, the Family Care Network was awarded the contract to operate the Independent Living Program (ILP) for San Luis Obispo County. Operating the SLO ILP had been a strategic goal of ours for many years, particularly since FCNI had been operating the ILP program in Santa Barbara County since 2011. Basically, this contract gave us the opportunity to serve all Transitional Age Youth in both counties, providing a seamless process for enrolling youth in transitional housing and providing uniform lifeskill development and education services across the continuum of foster and former foster youth. This implementation also consolidated administrative cost, allowing for greater resources to be applied to direct services.
We concluded our 25th year in grand form. We were well celebrated and supported, and felt extraordinarily humbled and proud to be part of improving the quality of life here on the Central Coast. For the year, we served 1,553 children, youth and families with a 90% success rate. We averaged about 175 employees, 100 foster parents and, remarkably, had 690 volunteers donate 17,952 hours.