By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Family Resources, which strives to strengthen children, families and individuals, won’t be able to serve as many children in its 24-hour care program beginning Oct. 1 because of inadequate state reimbursement, its president and CEO said.
The agency, which offers services in eastern Iowa from Dubuque to Keokuk, will have 35 fewer children in the 24-hour care program and will reduce staff by 45 full-time direct care and support positions and an undetermined number of part-time positions.
Children ranging in age from 10 to 17 are placed in the 24-hour program by the courts because of a variety of behavioral or emotional health issues.
“It’s safe to say, they’ve all experienced trauma in their short lives, physical or sexual abuse, neglect mental health issues, involvement in criminal activity, learning difficulties,” said Family Resources President and CEO Cheryl Goodwin.
Family Resources provides the children with services such as family therapy, remedial skill building, social skill building, supervision, education, family engagement, recreation, community service and vocational opportunities. “It’s about engaging the whole family, what will help the child be successful in the family and in the community.”
The average stay for a child is six to nine months; the children transitioning out of the program “tend to be with us longer, one year to 18 months,” she said. Those are the children whose needs are greatest, and require more care.
“Some are from across the state of Iowa, but most of them are from the Quad Cities and eastern Iowa. When we reduce our services, these children will need to be placed farther from their home community. It’s one more disruptive event in their lives. And if they are placed out of state, it will cost the state more,” Goodwin said.
Between now and Oct. 1, Family Resources will work with juvenile court services or the Department of Human Services to find the best placement for the children. Staff reductions will take place at the same time.
It has come to this, Goodwin said, because the reimbursement the agency receives is up to $15 less per day per child than other agencies in Iowa receive for the same services. The reimbursement rate is around $40 less than the actual cost of caring for the child each day. Last year, the 24-hour programs served an average of 77 children each day, resulting in a significant revenue shortfall.
“It’s not a sustainable situation,” said Family Resources Board Chair Ginny Wilson-Peters. “Our organization has struggled with this discrepancy for years, and we’ve managed to support the programs through agency-wide cost savings, occasional hiring freezes and benefit reductions. The adjustments we’re making now are necessary to ensure that the organization remains strong enough to fulfill its mission.”
Family Resources has submitted a reimbursement proposal to the Iowa Department of Human Services for what it considers a fair and reasonable rate. But the organization has not been successful in achieving a higher rate despite several attempts during the past few years. The Catholic Messenger received no response to an email sent to the department.
The Diocese of Davenport has contributed funding to Family Resources, and Char Maaske, the diocese’s chief financial officer, previously served as board president.
Dan Ebener, director of stewardship and parish planning for the Davenport Diocese, has provided strategic planning services for Family Resources and is a strong supporter of its mission.
“Catholic Social Teaching calls on us to promote the dignity and protect the rights of the most vulnerable in our society,” he said. “The economics pastoral of the U.S. Catholic bishops put special emphasis on the role of government in providing for the special needs of the most vulnerable. This suggests to me that what we need today is a movement for children, who are among the poorest, smallest and weakest in society.
“Certainly the kids at Family Resources are among those most vulnerable. Most of us are unaware of these kids. They are invisible to us. They come from a troubled environment. They grow up in difficult circumstances. Eventually, they become difficult and cause trouble. So we send them off to residential care at a place like Family Resources. And then we forget about them. We fail to provide the necessary resources so the agency can help these kids make the transition to becoming healthy members of our society. Unfortunately, many of them grow up to spend the rest of their lives in prison.
“To change this vicious cycle of pain, poverty and prison, we need a new movement for kids. All kids. With a special attention to those who are smallest, weakest and most vulnerable. Like the kids at Family Resources.
“Funding for Family Resources has been nearly frozen for the past 20 years. For the past few years, they have been using their reserves to make up for the difference between what these kids need and what the State of Iowa would send them. Those reserves have been devastated. They can no longer afford to deplete them. Their kids deserve better. The agency deserves our full support. The people of Iowa should demand that kids in residential care receive the care and attention required of the ‘least of these.’”
About Family Resources
Family Resources has a tradition that dates back 150 years. Last year, nearly 35,000 people were served by the organization’s services. Family Resources operates more than 30 programs that include: children welfare and juvenile justice; mental and behavioral health services; victim services including two domestic violence shelters; sexual assault prevention and recovery programs; and alternative education.