Community Partners Deliver Service During Budget Crunch
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Sacramento County’s Juvenile Justice and Mental Health departments know all too well the pain of budget cuts and fiscal constraints imposed in the last several years. And despite the decreased resources, the need for services has only increased.
That’s why the County has turned to community-based, non-profit organizations to work as partners. Some of those partnerships are new and developing; others – like the Stanford Home for Children – began more than 100 years ago and deliver striking results by using tested and proven methods of community-based intervention.
112 years ago, Stanford Home opened its doors as an orphanage. In the 1990s, the group became a residential provider for juvenile services. Now, the group uses in-home and family/community-centric processes to work with at-risk and troubled youths to achieve positive results. That continuing evolution, and their results-oriented mentality has allowed them to become one of Sacramento County’s most trusted partners.
“They have a long history serving the community,” said Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli. “They’ve survived the test of time and continue to prove to be a valuable partner with the families in the Sacramento Region.”
That trust has become essential in the last years. As the budgets were cut at the county, the amount of revenue flowing to Stanford Home has also been decreased. But the overall caseload has increased dramatically. For example, during the 2011 fiscal year, Stanford Home had its funding cut twice, but also saw a corresponding increase of 20-25% to its caseload.
Because the group operates on a system that incorporates both caring and competence, the staff is able to absorb some of the cuts while still delivering results.
“We are in a business of taking kids and families and helping them move them on in their lives,” said Stanford Home Associate Executive Director Kären Woodruff. “However, the county helps us define that, or we do it as an organization, that’s the kind of real outcome we’re looking for.”
Woodruff described their focus on positive outcomes as laser-like.
That dedication to outcomes has allowed Stanford Home to operate with both business principles and a non-profit heart. Success isn’t measured simply by effort put into the program, but the results that emerge.
“With Wrap Around, we want to see a young man who was in residential care for six years successfully transition back home,” said Woodruff. “That’s the kind of outcome we measure.”
Wrap Around is the title of one of Stanford Home’s most effective programs.
And the data points to that success. National and statewide research indicates that youths enjoy a greater success rate if they are treated in the home setting and when connected to a family.
“They use evidence-based practices,” said Nottoli. “And my view is that they have proven their abilities and they continue to do it in the most difficult of times.”
“When kids come through our doors, we make sure they make a permanent connection they can rely upon,” said Woodruff. “Both the Probation Department and in Residential care, resources close up when a child reaches 18. Without the permanent connections, they end up dead, on drugs, or in jail by 21.”
With Stanford Home’s Wrap Around Program, some of the highest risk youths work with family or family finding services, and they are re-integrated into a home setting. There, Stanford Home’s direct care staff work not only with the youth, but with the family to rebuild trust and security within themselves.
Working in the home not only has increased success rates, but saves substantial money. Residential care can cost upwards of $80,000 per year.
“I think it’s all about organizational culture,” said Woodruff. “We make sure that our goals are aligned with the right results.”
That requires leadership.
“There’s a leadership training part of this,” continued Woodruff. “We have to train our leaders to deal with our direct care staff. Those are the people who are directly interacting with the families. We can’t reduce caseload, but we can increase training and support to aid with handling the load, with positive, case-specific feedback and praise.”
Stanford Home recently underwent an intensive strategic planning campaign. Among the resulting recommendations that are being implemented, the group will be changing its name to Stanford Youth Solutions, a name that more closely aligns with the mission and its solutions-based work.
“I feel like Stanford Home, or Stanford Youth Solutions as they will be known, is an organization that has proven their abilities and capacity to help children in extremely difficult situations,” said Nottoli . “They are the type of partner that I appreciate having.”