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Spring Soirée Raises Over $75,000 in Critically-Needed Funds for Walden Family Services

Spring Soiree 2019 Program

Solana Beach, CA—In celebration of National Foster Care Month, Executive Chef Jeffrey Strauss hosted an intimate dinner at Pamplemousse Grille on May 7, 2019 to benefit Walden Family Services. The intimate event raised $75,000 for Walden’s wide-ranging programs on behalf of children and youth in foster care.

“We are so appreciative of Chef Jeffrey’s continued support,” said Walden CEO Teresa Stivers. “His commitment to children’s causes, and to Walden’s work with foster children, really speaks to how strongly he believes in the wellbeing of all young people.”

In keeping with the theme “An Evening with Jeffrey,” the night began with a private reception at Chef Strauss’s home, where guests were treated to an array of delicious bites before traveling the short distance to Pamplemousse Grille. There they enjoyed an exquisite four-course menu with special wine pairings while learning more about Walden’s programs.

After dinner, Walden employee and former foster youth Melissa Villagomez talked about her experience in foster care and the difference nonprofit Foster Family Agency (FFA) care—such as that provided by Walden—made in her life. Now an educated, successful young adult, Melissa credits her childhood FFA and her FFA social worker with making sure she thrived.

“Melissa is now an inspirational advocate for other kids living in the foster care system,” said Stivers. “Listening to her just makes us work that much harder to ensure that other kids get the support and help they deserve, so they can all complete their education, become gainfully employed, and be productive, giving members of their community. We all benefit from their success.”

Spring Soirée guests included Mary Alice and Ron Brady; Melissa and Quentin Blackford; Arlene Lieberman; Lou and Judy Ferrero; Barbie and Dan Spinazzola; Emily and Ted Shults; Lisa and Raul Albanez; Nettie Keck; and Joyce Glazer.

Advocacy in Action

Walden’s Melissa Villagomez speaks to the importance of nonprofit Foster Family Agency (FFA) social workers and urges a raise in the rate paid to FFAs for their salaries at a California State Assembly budget meeting in Sacramento.

Read more about this issue in our article here: Walden Family Services Supports Allocation to Fill Gap.

Walden Family Services: 2018 Impact Report

See how our combined efforts helped children and families in 2018.

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Walden Family Services Supports Allocation to Fill Gap

Walden Family Services supports California budget allocation to fill gap created by minimum wage requirements

SAN DIEGO, CA—Walden Family Services urges California lawmakers to allocate much-needed funds to address the impact of State-mandated increases to minimum wage on the salaries of social workers. Current law has caused a $26.7 million shortfall felt by licensed nonprofit Foster Family Agencies (FFAs) across the state.

When a child enters the welfare system in California, the State contracts an FFAsuch as Walden for services, paying for necessary care via that contract. Rates for care­—including salaries—are fixed in the California State budget with no yearly salary adjustment for cost-of-living increases, despite a 3.6% annual mandated increase to minimum wage through 2022.

Social workers employed by FFAs are highly skilled and educated—by law, they must hold Master’s degrees—and as exempt employees, entitled to a salary equal to at least twice the minimum wage.

This means that in 2019, FFA social workers should earn double the $12/hour minimum wage, or $49,920. Unfortunately, the current FFA rate schedule only supports an average salary of $47,304, meaning that in order to remain compliant Walden and other FFAs must seek supplemental funding (donations, grants, and private contributions) to meet even minimum standards.

By comparison, social workers who work in mental health, substance abuse, healthcare, or educational settings earn an average range of $56592 to $73896. This wage discrepancy leads to greater job turnover at FFAs, as social workers leave agencies in search of a better living.

“We want to pay our social workers what they’re worth,” says Walden CEO Teresa Stivers. “They are highly knowledgeable and passionate advocates for the kids they work with, and they’re ready to go—day or night—when they get a call from one of their clients or families. They put the time needed into building relationships with children who’ve already experienced the trauma of turbulent home lives and separation. We need them to stay, and that costs money.”

Unable to bridge the gap in salary requirements, some agencies have scaled back FFA programs or closed entirely, leaving vulnerable children are left with nowhere to go: The tragic consequence is that families who might be willing to accept them can’t be recruited, trained, or supported.

To encourage lawmakers to adopt the needed $26.7 million allocation, Walden is sending a delegation to Sacramento and participating in a letter-writing campaign in time for budget subcommittee hearings in the California Senate on April 4, 2019 and California Assembly on April 10, 2019.

To lend your voice in support, please contact your California State representatives. For sample letters you can send, please download here:

Sample Letter from Resource Parents

Sample Letter from Social Workers

Fact Sheet 

Walden Cited for Prudent Financial Planning Against Possible Economic Downturns

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently heralded Walden Family Services as a nonprofit making concrete plans to responsibly weather a possible recession or other downturn in giving. With the help of a grant earmarked by the funder specifically for reserves, Walden has increased fundraising efforts and sought diverse revenue streams in order to build those reserves and continue to serve the children, youth and families of Southern California unimpeded.

Read more about how Walden and other nonprofits are (or are not) taking steps to protect themselves by clicking here.

Walden COO Sue Evans Joins FFTA Board

Walden Family Services is proud to announce that Chief Operating Officer Sue Evans has been elected to the Family Focused Treatment Association (FFTA) Board of Directors for a three-year term.

A graduate of Bath University in England, Evans has over 30 years of experience in social work and foster care. She joined Walden as a social worker in 2000 and has held various positions including interim CEO before becoming COO in 2010.

Under her leadership, Walden expanded its foster care program to care for teens with developmental disabilities and started a program for children and teens with special health care needs. Evans also established and launched Walden’s successful Transitional Housing Plus Foster Care (THP+FC) program, Nurturing Parenting, and Visitation Programs. Her experience and expertise make her a frequently-sought presenter of best practices at both national and state conferences.

“We are very proud of the fact that Walden’s been a pioneer in the area of nurturing medically fragile and behaviorally challenged children,” says Teresa Stivers, Walden Family Services’ CEO. “And Sue Evans gets a lot of the credit for the fact that our programs have become models for other agencies.”

Evans’ work has led to Walden’s 2018 designation as one of the first agencies licensed by the State of California to provide Intensive Services Foster Care (ISFC), allowing children and youth with significant medical, therapeutic and behavioral needs to remain in a home-based setting for care.

Sue Evans shares Walden’s commitment to the idea that every child should have a loving family and the ability to realize their greatest potential, regardless of ability. Her board service with FFTA will continue to help Walden Family Services, FFTA and the children and families they serve advance toward that goal daily.

About Family Focused Treatment Association (FFTA)

FFTA was founded in 1988 to develop, promote and support treatment foster care. They are the only national nonprofit representing treatment foster care with 470 member agencies located in nearly every US state and Canadian province. FFTA member agencies provide treatment foster care services to more than 50,000 children and youth each year.

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