- Posted by Famcare
- On February 21, 2017
- 0 Comments
My experience as a Probation Administrator not only lead me to create the Family Care Network, but it left me with serious frustrations on how the “system” treated older foster youth and made no effort to help these kids successfully age out of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Foster youth were set up from the beginning to fail – seriously!
Needless to say, one of my goals for the Family Care Network was to somehow, in some way, orchestrate a constellation of services to stop this practice, at least on the Central Coast. More foster youth failed to complete high school than those that did; very, very few attended college, let alone obtain a degree; and few were really prepared for the world of work and finding a career.
When I first moved to San Luis Obispo County, I made some interesting observations. First, there existed a pretty fantastic California Conservation Corp program which served very few local youth. Second, the federally funded workforce development program (CETA/JTPA) steered clear of serving foster youth, “because they have a much lower potential for success” which they believed skewed their data and negatively impacted their funding. Disgusting, on both accounts. It was clear that a significant need existed, with little to no effort made to solve the problem.
Under the “Children’s Network Services” umbrella, I was able to assemble a small workgroup to talk about the situation and brainstorm solutions. This proved very successful.
I was able to stitch together a very unique partnership which included the Probation Department, the Conservation Corps, the Private Industry Council and two of our largest school districts. Our plan was to create two “Work Learn” training centers, one in each district, which would create a very unique learning opportunity. The probation department would select and refer at-risk students, the school districts agreed to provide the facilities and education services, the Conservation Corps would develop work-learn sites throughout the County and provide a vehicle, the Private Industry Council would provide computer labs, career development instruction and wages for the student work, and the Family Care Network would provide direct services staff and program administration. Now, all we needed was funding to make it happen!
Once again, I called on my grant writing skills and was able to secure a fairly substantial, three year grant to fund the “Mainstream Youth Corps.” This project was really amazing. We were able to work out all of the logistics at lightning speed; I was able to hire two super-talented project supervisors, both bilingual; the enthusiasm and commitment of our partners couldn’t have been better; and we forged together an amalgamation of agencies which never before had worked together like this!
Mainstream Youth Corps, or MYC as we called it, not only broke new ground, it performed better than anyone’s expectations. The Conservation Corps developed some really great project sites, enabling the participants to learn some very marketable skills. Basically, these youth were getting paid half day to learn work skills and ethics, they had the opportunity to earn high school credits while being exposed to a whole new world of computer technology.
In our first year, we served 35 youth with a better than 90% success. Keep in mind, these were very high risk youth who had criminal records, some were gang involved – they were a tough crowd. Through the three year grant cycle, we served almost 120 with about an 85% success. With Due to this success, I was asked by the Office of Criminal Justice Planning to apply for another grant, and this time received a five year grant. Experiencing new funding restraints, the program was consolidated into one location at Camp San Luis Obispo, close to the Conservation Corps, and was now under the jurisdiction of the County Office of Education. about an 85% success.
In eight years, MYC and its successor served 348 youth with an 85+% success rate. This program paved the way for the Family Care Network to provide school-based, career counseling to this population of youth countywide for the next seven years, serving 3,500 youth with a near 90% success!
As with most nonprofit organizations, the Family Care Network has experienced some fiscal challenges and this was one of our challenging years. Deploying our “think-tank” team approach, we begin strategizing ways to bring in some extra revenue. Our Office Manager at that time, Marci Collins, hit the jackpot. She was completing her BA at Cal Poly and was needing to do her Senior Project. She proposed doing a 10K walk/run, from Morro Rock to the Cayucos Pier, as her project with the proceeds going to Family Care Network. It was a win-win for all of us. Thus, Miracle Miles for Kids was born and launched on October 29! MM4K would reemerge in 2004 and continues to date.
During this timeframe, I was honored to be elected as the first “private-sector” Chair of the Children’s Services Network Council (CSN), a post previously held only by County department heads or elected officials. Exciting things were happening with CSN as our collaborative continue to grow and evolve.
One of the most significant service delivery models to emerge in the early nineties was called “Healthy Start.” In short, Healthy Start was about setting up a “one-stop shop” services portal within schools awarded a Healthy Start grant. This coincided with a statewide movement to promote broader collaboration and community-based service delivery centers. CSN became the oversight body for Healthy Start in San Luis Obispo County, as well as other interagency community services models.
To promote interagency service delivery, the state initiated a program inviting selected counties to participate in training – San Luis Obispo was selected. As Chair, I selected and led a delegation of CSN members to attend a series of “Policy Academy” training sessions hosted and funded by the Foundation Consortium of School-Based Services. The sessions were amazing, challenging and very instrumental shaping the CSN collaboration.
Several of us also visited El Dorado County to see firsthand how they had successfully launched community-based service centers. Armed with all this new information, I initiated a workgroup tasked with developing a model for San Luis Obispo County to be implemented after the Healthy Start funding ended. Coinciding with this, I wrote a successful proposal for the county to secure Federal Family Preservation and Support Funds which were used to launch our community-based service centers.
After an incredible amount of work, CSN approved and launched the SAFE community-based services model (Services Affirming Family Empowerment.) Our first SAFE site was in Paso Robles, and our second in Arroyo Grande. Additional sites later emerged as well. Today our SAFE integrated services model continues to provide regionalized access to an array of Child, Family and Youth Services. The Family Care Network has been pleased to be a partner in SAFE over all these years.
1994/1995 was certainly a year of new partnerships and programs which produced significant benefit to many lives. We finished the year serving a total of 316 children, youth and families with a 93% success rate!