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Good things happening in San Diego – Family & Youth Roundtable

December 04, 2011

We have been watching the exciting developments with the Family and Youth Roundtable in San Diego, California.This is an amazing family organization that embodies the spirit of a systems of care approach. Enjoy this brief history of their evolution and then check out their website and learn more about what they do (including a strong certification program) and then download their latest Family & Youth Sector Report.

Remembering who we are and why we came to the table

Our experience began with a SAMHSA Children’s System of Care (CSOC) grant, thus initiating the development of San Diego’s CSOC.   Stewardship for our Children’s System of Care was held by County of San Diego Children’s Mental Health, our project name was Heartbeat. Within our project we created Heartbeat Family Partnership (HFP), an independent family led organization. In looking back, sustainability developed because the family leaders of HFP were successful in getting families out of their living rooms and involved. Vital to these families’ evolvement was the opportunity to attend conferences and trainings, such as,

  • National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health
  • Georgetown Leadership Academy Communities Can, and
  • California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth

These learning experiences opened families eyes to what could be while giving them tools they could use. These events also gave way to forming relationships with other families, professional partners and organizations which in turn granted these families the opening to receive technical assistances formally and informally.   

The independent family organization we have today does not look like the organization we had envisioned in 1998. Our community graduated from SAMHSA CSOC in 2004, HFP, the family organization, became a program of a large mental health provider. A lesson learned from this experience might be that CSOC family organizations, at the beginning of strategic development should look for other funding which allows them to diversify their funding. However another perspective might be losing the independence of a family organization might have been necessary to our development; in that today we do have a strong independent family and youth led organization built on the foundation created by our Children’s System of Care. How we got here is a testament to relationships that forge when working together to build a Children’s System of Care.

In our steps to creating a Children’s System of Care leaders from the public sector, the private sector, and the family/youth sector shared commitment despite challenges to a goal of developing and sustaining a partnership between families, youth and professionals. In our first steps towards this goal, a strong sense of “us” vs. “them” emerged, which in retrospect created the necessary energy to open doors and created community dialogues. From these community dialogues relationships forged and leaders emerged.

Children’s Mental Health Services (CMHS) Director, Alfredo Aguirre, was one of those leaders who in the last two years of our CSOC funding began development of mechanisms that would support the advancement of Family Youth Professional Partnership beyond SAMHSA CSOC funding. CMHSengaged the expertise of Pam Hawkins(United Advocates for Children of California (UACC)) and Dr Todd Sonsa (California Institute for Mental Health (CIMH) to facilitate one of several community forums focused on the concept of partnership with families, youth, public systems and providers. At the same time a group of family and youth volunteers’ that HFP had gotten involved saw signs that we were going to lose the independence of our family led organization (HFP). This group named themselves the Roundtable, and began to work with the public and private sectors autonomously, without the support of HFP.

We quickly recognized that the Roundtable would have to be a formal family and youth led organization with funding to sustain its effort to serve as coordinating hub for families and youth involved in public child and family serving systems.Towards this end, Alfredo Aguirre, CMHS Director, Walter Philip Executive Director of San Diego Youth and Community Services (SDYCS), Dr Marty Giffin, Executive Director of San Diego Center for Children (SDCC), Patric Ashby, Child Welfare Services (CWS) Director and members of the Roundtable met with The California Endowment to introduce our concept of a family and youth led organization and submit a proposal that would allow the Roundtable to become a formal family and youth led non-profit organization. On January 1, 2005 we became the Family & Youth Roundtable a nonprofit family and youth led organization.

Since then we have continued to work with our CSOC partners to advance CSOC principles, we have both formal and informal relationships with our professional partners and their organizations. We have been successful in creating a family and youth council which informs our work. We have provided educational forums that promote the effectiveness of partnerships between caregivers, youth and providers’ of public services. Because of the Roundtable’s success at one of those conference opportunities mentioned above Family Leaders from the state of California, sought us out, they requested that we form a state hub for family leaders similar to our San Diego Family and Youth Council, We began this work in 2007 and name ourselves Family Partnership Council of California (FPCC) thus far we have 14 family leaders representing over 200 family voices.

The Roundtable has become the California State Chapter for the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, giving our San Diego and State families a national voice. We have developed a training and coaching program that supports provider agencies in improving a Family Center Practice. And San Diego County’s Children’s Mental Health being the trailblazer that they are, has just awarded us funding to support a CMHS Family and Youth Partners Employment Training Academy. In writing this article I am reminded of the Margaret Mead quote, I often saw at CSOC conferences which is: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  This quote was often my mantra on those challenging days, and assisted in creating the essential elements of our sustainability which are:

  • Remembering who we are and why we came to the table
  • Use your vision and mission as your guide for everything
  • And relationships matter!

~ Donna Ewing Marto, Executive Director, Family & Youth Roundtable ~

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