CORPORATE LEADERS HAVE GIVEN UP ON FULL CIRCLE
By Don Deane
Dozens of people have come to me in the last few weeks with sadness and
consternation that Bolinas' exceptional treatment program for kids is closing
after 30 years of service for Marin and the rest of California.
As the second executive director of Full Circle/Growing Mind from 1977 to 1984, I learned about the proposed closure quite by accident in January after the decision to terminate the program had been made by agency executive staff and the board of directors in San Rafael. The judgment was made a little over a year after the November 2003 death of Full Circle founder Dr. Carolyn Brown.
In the last month a former Full Circle Board President, John Stansbury, former staffer Neil Scheiman, and I met with the current executive director, Full Circle staff members, and the board of directors to determine what could have gone so wrong with such an exceptional program that there is no alternative left but to shut it down.
The answer is that the agency's San Rafael leadership no longer has the energy or the will to keep the residential program open.
The board and executive staff have said that residential treatment is "out of favor" in the state, and fee increases for heightened costs have not been forthcoming in 10 out of the last 14 years. But neither the board nor the executive director were enthusiastic to the possibility of a funding infusion to save the program. They were also not hopeful in considering budget modifications to reduce costs to keep Full Circle in Dogtown alive. I reviewed each and every line of the proposed and revised budget for 2004. There are a significant number of budget modifications possible.
The board expects to spend between $300,000 and $400,000 to close Full Circle down.
The fact of the matter is that with less costly administration in San Rafael, modified staffing levels at Full Circle, and reorganizing assets and mortgages, Full Circle could clearly operate in the black and continue into the future with its exceptional work with children.
The new plan for the agency which has been proposed by the executive director and endorsed by the board of directors is to sell the three residential homes in Bolinas and the 24-acre main campus in Dogtown. Those liquidated assets would allow the agency to do community outreach, family work and work in the schools with kids, at a loss, and no longer provide residential treatment for the neediest and most damaged children in the state.
There are currently $1.4 million in mortgages on the four properties, estimated to be worth between $5 and $7 million. The liquidated assets would allow the future agency to operate at a loss with considerable administrative overhead and no residential program.
This plan is just wrong. It is not in the best interests of the kids at Full Circle. It is not in the best interests of the Bolinas community. And it is not in the best interests of the kids that will need Full Circle in the future. It is not about too little money. There is never enough money. It is about lack of leadership, lack of vision, and lack of belief.
Reorganizing the assets and perhaps selling one of the group homes would allow Full Circle to continue into the future with vitally needed services.
Reorganization may be necessary in the Full Circle agency. New energy, new board members, and an outside assessment and proposal for Full Circle to work more efficiently would seem to be in order. The Full Circle Board and administration should reconsider their decision and instead focus on re-energizing services for kids needing residential treatment.