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In the past few months we’ve asked your help to weather a storm—a funding crisis looms because the state of California passed AB74 in December 2013. The bill was meant to fix the state’s budget crisis, but sadly resulted in less flexibility in the length of time kids can stay in Group Homes, like our Village. This change drastically impacts our mission to keep siblings together in longer-term placements. You responded and things improved, but more needs to be done.

Volunteers and supporters immediately got to work on the problem:

* Many of you answered our call to write letters to Governor Brown and your State Senate and Assembly members. See below – you can still send a letter!

* We got LOTS of media attention
-  Feb 28, 2014, Press Democrat article – read here.
- Letters to the editor and a Close to Home column

* Crisis funding
- Donations have been coming in—but are still needed to cover our $35,000 monthly cost
- Our annual Gala raised its planned goal of $100,000 THANKS TO YOU!
- Our census of children had decreased drastically as local agencies stopped referring for a while. However, referrals for short-term placements have increased and currently we are caring for 22 wonderful children. We are examining ways to be flexible and diverse in adjusting to these short-term residencies (which does not fit our intended mission and goals, which we hope to re-establish by next year.)

The long-term solution to this crisis: reclassification of our status as to a Family Centered Home. We will continue to pursue reclassification—we cannot let up in this effort, even while we continue to ask for your generous support to help us keep critical programs going for the children in our care. Here’s how you can help, by sending a letter to your representatives and the Governor.

Sonoma County residents should not accept a policy that results in the under-utilization of a facility like the Village. Studies have shown dismal outcomes for foster children who do not receive needed support. Within four years of leaving the system, 25 percent will be homeless, 40 percent will go on public assistance, and 50 percent will be unemployed. More than 70 percent of all state penitentiary inmates have spent time in the foster care system.

The Children’s Village program is designed to minimize these negative outcomes. Of the 57 children served at the village, 19 have successfully reunified with family or into foster homes. In 2013, 50 percent of the children had a GPA of 3.0 or greater. Village “alumni” are enrolled in college and gainfully employed.

The number of children going into the foster care system is not going to decrease in the future. It will increase. When the AB 74 experiment has run its course, it may leave in its wake children damaged by early return to unfit families or multiple placements.

Residents of Sonoma County should realize that dollars saved under AB 74 will pale in comparison to the cost of caring for young adults who missed the opportunity to benefit from the services provided at Sonoma County Children’s Village.

Nick Honey, MSW, Sonoma County Human Services Department Family, Youth & Children’s Division calls the Village, “A wonderful Program,” February 28, 2014 Press Democrat. Please, see our How To Help page, make a donation, become a volunteer. With your continued support, we can weather this storm!