Sacramento Children's Home
The 1998-1999 Sacramento County Grand Jury toured the Sacramento Children's Home (the Home) on May 25, 1999. The Home is located at 2750 Sutterville Rd., Sacramento.
The Grand Jury learned that the Children's Home serves a dual role -- it provides both residential care and community services. The Home has been providing services for children since the 1800s when it first opened as an orphan's asylum. Since its inception as an orphanage, the scope of activities and services provided by the Home have changed markedly over the years to its current services in the County -- providing residential treatment programs for abused and troubled children and assisting families in crisis through community-based programs. Indeed, the services offered by the Home are inscribed in a statement over the entranceway: "Caring for children and families since 1867."
The Home moved to its present location in 1906. It is situated on 17 acres and accommodates 68 boys and girls onsite, and oversees housing for an additional 12 children off campus. The campus is aesthetically pleasing, characterized by stone buildings, open courtyards, expanses of manicured lawns and shaded gardens under old trees. There are recreational facilities including playgrounds, basketball courts, two baseball fields, a swimming pool, and a small barnyard with geese, goats and a pig.
Children at the Home range in age from six to 18 years. The Home serves Severely Emotionally Disturbed (SED) children. Most children entering the home are referred from the Sacramento County welfare system. The average length of stay at the Home is 18 months. At the Home, children are provided services for emotional and behavioral problems.
They also attend school, and most go to a non-public school on the campus, the Curtis Park School, which has a maximum enrollment of 35. Instruction is offered for children up to age 14 or 8th grade. The school operates 220 days per year, in contrast to the typical 180-day school year. In addition to traditional instruction, the School provides specialized programs for SED children in behavior management, speech and language skills, adaptive physical education, and one-on-one instruction for children with special needs.
There are 130 staff providing services on the campus. The Grand Jury was told that the cost for housing and services to a child at the Home is $5,600 per month or approximately $65,000 per year. The Home recovers $4,600 per child per month from government agencies: 50 percent from federal and 50 percent from state and County agencies. The difference is covered by charitable donations to the Home or through fundraising efforts.
The aim of the Home is to return children to their families, but officials informed the Grand Jury that many of the children ultimately enter foster care or are adopted.
The Grand Jury learned that Community Services is the Home's prevention arm. It started operation in 1984, focusing on early intervention in circumstances of child abuse and family preservation. Through Community Services, the Home provides outreach throughout the greater Sacramento area for high-risk families. These services include assistance with behavioral management, counseling, parent education, transportation and budgeting. Many of these services are provided directly in a family's home, whereas others are offered at family resource centers located throughout the County. Popular programs include drug and alcohol education, family unity, Sacramento City Healthy Start and the Crisis Nursery, among others. Officials informed the Grand Jury that more than 3,000 children and 800 families were served by these programs in 1997-1998.
The Grand Jury also toured one of the Community Service facilities, the Sacramento Crisis Nursery, located at 6699 South Land Park Drive. This facility previously housed elderly, disabled men. The completely remodeled 3,000 square foot nursery is in a quiet neighborhood. It has no distinguishing features from the neighboring residential home so that it is not intrusive. The Crisis Nursery opened in 1996 to provide short-term respite services for children whose parents are facing crisis situations. The facility holds six children -- infants to age 6 -- although the Grand Jury was told that its capacity will increase to ten as soon as the fire sprinkler system is completed. Expanded housing is deemed critical, because as many children are turned away from the Nursery as are actually served because of the space limitation.
The Grand Jury was told that children entering the Crisis Nursery stay a minimum of 24 hours, and can remain for as long as 30 days. The average stay is two weeks. The unique feature of the Crisis Nursery is that the services are provided to the child and parent(s) without involving Child Protective Services (CPS). This autonomy from CPS encourages parents to seek crisis intervention services without fear of reprisal from authority; however, the Crisis Nursery is mandated to report suspected child abuse. The Crisis Nursery has served more than 500 children since its inception.
The Crisis Nursery strives to achieve family preservation and reunification. Parents using the Nursery must communicate daily with their child and visit every second day. A case plan is made for each child and parent(s) at entry. Placement is provided for homeless children.
The annual operating budget of the Nursery is $400,000. It receives ongoing help from community volunteers and philanthropists. There are 20 employees and more than 50 volunteers. Two child care workers are on duty 24 hours per day. Crisis Nursery officials informed the Grand Jury that a new service is now offered -- a parent support line that operates 24 hours per day to assist parents in crisis situations.
The Grand Jury was impressed with the programs provided by the Home, both at the Home itself and via its Community Services. Because total costs for residential care exceed funds provided by the County, and because the Community Service programs are funded entirely by donations and fundraising efforts, greater community participation is urged.
The Grand Jury was informed that another Crisis Nursery, like the one described, would greatly benefit northern portions of the County. A capital campaign is underway by the Home to raise funds to improve onsite facilities and to allow expansion of its Community Service programs throughout the County.
The staff stressed to the Grand Jury that access to the facility and programs are adversely affected by the inadequacy of public transportation.
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