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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

 

Full Circle To Be Closed In 60 Days
By Don Deane


   Full Circle a premiere residential treatment program for seriously troubled and abused boys may close within 60 days because of  state funding priorities and a national trend away from allocating money for residential services for children with acute needs.
   The nationally-known 30-year old treatment program has been one of the largest employers in Bolinas and has spawned a variety of precise services for high schools students and families throughout Marin.
    The Dogtown facility on 24 acres, and three small group homes in Bolinas, provide residential and treatment services for 24 boys and their families. The facility was literally hand built by the original program staff with funding from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations in the early seventies.
   Founded by the late Dr. Carolyn Brown in consultation with Dr. Michael Lerner, later of Commonweal, and Tim Tabernik, longtime executive director, the original facility served six boys.
   Unique characteristics of the program include special concern about food allergies and diet, educating children with severe learning disabilities, and addressing the special individual and family needs of youngsters who have suffered severe emotional and physical abuse.
    Besides the phenomena of shrinking state and federal funds for addressing these and other needs, legislation effecting private school funding is also being directed away from residential treatment with the view that public schools can provide for these children's special needs in public school settings.
   Full Circle Executive Director Brian Van Wheel worries about what will happen to kids with the kinds of needs
Full Circle has served over the last three decades:
   "The children will go into much lower levels of care than they require. They will go into public school and not get what they need. The schools will be overwhelmed as will foster homes. There will be many more referrals to Juvenile Hall and the California Youth Authority," he said.
   He added, "Prevention programs won't work with these kids. The work we area doing is the kind of work that is needed."
   This crisis of care for residential treatment has been growing since 1990 when costs for services were locked down because of SB 933. Expenses have gone up every year but there have only been four fee increases in 15 years.
   In order to survive many residential programs such as Sunny Hills, Fred Finch and Edgewood have increased the number of children in each group home from four or five to ten to twelve.
   As an example of the funding crisis, counselors and houseparents are expected by the state to work for $7.00 per hour including benefits. Full Circle pays closer to $18 per hour including benefits. Workers compensation costs have risen from $70,000 to over $230,000 in the last few years.
   "We're  small," says Van Wheel, "but the bigger programs are showing deficits in the millions per year. Fred Finch Homes has just announced they will close spaces for 40 children because of growing deficits.
Full Circle is losing $200,000 each year."
   Full Circle Clinical and Program Director Bonnie Feld says, "I'm putting it out to the universe and hoping a miracle will happen."
   The unfortunate reality is that when this current disfavor for residential treatment passes with the recognition that seriously damaged kids can't just float in the community and public schools, there will be no programs left to serve them.
   Feld, who has been Clinical Director for 30-years, emphasized, "A majority of these children have been physically and sexually abused. Most of them have been abandoned or neglected and emotionally traumatized. Some have neurological and medical problems resulting from fetal drug or alcohol abuse. Many are non-readers and fall far below grade level."
   Feld observes, "
Full Circle is a little jewel for kids that don't have anywhere to go and anywhere to get what they need. It was so hard to get the program started and make it work. It is so sad that it may close, end, disappear because of money.

How Can Full Circle Be Saved
1) $300,000 to $500,000 in bridge money to patch the program until financial restructuring can take effect.
2) Reprioritizing and restructuring the budget.
3) Developing support businesses.
4) Developing living trusts to support
Full Circle's future.
5) State legislation to better fund these critical programs and services.
6) Brainstorm and work with the community to develop support and other ideas for program sustainability.

 

 

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