Doug talks with Emily Garrick-Steenson about the role and importance of community support organizations such as Lutheran Community Services Northwest and ‘A Family Place.’ (www.FamilyPlaceRelief.org)
The importance of these organizations to the most vulnerable population in communities is often extremely high and easy to overlook.
Public support programs are stretched thin across the country and community support organizations like LCS Northwest and A Family Place step in to address a critical gap in helping at-risk families to stay self-sufficient and avoid the need for state intervention at a very high cost to the taxpayers.
Doug’s business specializes in partnering with companies and non-profits to capture overhead cost savings without layoffs to fund growth and strengthen financial results.
Schedule time with Doug to talk about your business at www.MeetDoug.Biz
Welcome to the terminal value Podcast where each episode provides in depth insight about the long term value of companies and ideas in our current world. Your host for this podcast is Doug Utberg, the founder and principal consultant for Business of Life, LLC.
Doug: Welcome to the terminal value podcast. I have Emily Garrick Steenson with me, and she is with Lutheran Community Services Northwest. And she specifically works with a service out of the Newburgh area called a family place. And one of the many things that they do is they actually do early intervention to basically to help keep families together and to help families figure out how to, you know, basically how to avoid needing to go through the system. And being a financial guy. I actually heard her first presentation on this at the local chamber. And what really struck me is the amount of cost avoidance just the magnitude of cost avoidance that you can create by avoiding needing to send just one person through the system, you know, as by going through the system. I mean, like juvie rehab, those types of things, because in a lot of cases, those get funded, publicly funded, I apologize. I’m slipping over my tongue here. And they cost a lot of money that most municipalities just don’t have. Emily, please introduce yourself and help everybody else learn what you’ve taught me just about how impactful community organizations can be.
Emily: Sure. So, like Doug said, my name is Emily Garrick-Steenson. I am the marketing and events director for a specialist excuse me, for Lutheran Community Services Northwest and a family place. A family place is our program here in Yamhill County, not just Newburgh, but McMinnville. And we recently opened this year, a classroom in Sheridan, which is really exciting. And recently got to place a building on the property of the will of minus School District. So we are all across the county from the east most point to the west, which is really exciting.
Doug: I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna do a quick stop there. And so that is that is Yamhill County in Oregon, for the listeners who are out of state or possibly out of the country so and for people who are not in the United States, or who are from the east coast, Oregon is a state that’s way over on the west coast, sandwiched between California and Washington, I like to say there’s a state between Seattle and San Francisco, and that’s called Oregon. And that’s what we both live.
Emily: That’s true. And to be more specific, Yamhill County is known internationally as Oregon’s wine country, which seems very posh and high end. But Yamhill County has this really unique mix of we play a little bit of suburbs to Portland, and the business community as well as bedroom community to people that work in the tech world for Intel, etc. But our specific county starts on the east end with that kind of bedroom community suburb feel, and goes all the way west into communities on the way to the coast. But every community in between, probably used to be a logging town, which has really great economic impacts that you can see in every single part of our county, as well as just different agro businesses, and things that have faded out. So while we are known as one country, and very posh, there’s a lot of economic depression in some of our communities. And that’s where we do the work is working with very at risk families, because when you have a lot of risk factors, like economic depression, as well as history of violence, or child, children taken out of home for foster care, substance abuse, but those were all those risk factors come up. And so we do outreach all over the county. And we try to find the families that are at the highest risk for abuse and neglect. Not that it’s necessarily happening yet. That’s where we call it early intervention. We want those young parents, sometimes they’re brand new parents, sometimes they’re a year or two in that are really high stressed that maybe a few down years down the road might lose a child to the foster care system. So our goal is to find them early, to act quickly. And to give them the skills and basic needs support. They need to not go into that foster system. A lot of parents
Doug: I Think there’s actually there’s a multitude of benefits that come from that from that. Number one is that sending kids through the foster care system is just expensive.
Emily: It’s very, very expensive, very expensive.
Doug: Very expensive. And you know counties, nowhere everywhere are running short on resources. And number two is that it’s really traumatic for the kids and the families. I mean, now, you know, of course, right? Everybody has problems, some people’s problems are bigger than others. But to the extent that these families can really figure it out, I think that makes a huge difference. You know, both, I think both emotionally, psychologically, mental health wise, which I think is a really underappreciated impact. I mean, pretty much everybody’s mental health is in the tank after 2020. In the COVID lockdowns and, you know, all of us having to be around our kid, you know, our kids and families and spouses 24/7, but and then having to be around us.
Doug: The flip side, but, but also, yeah, I think that there’s just there’s a multitude of benefits. And really being able to intercept that early, I think is, is just really huge. And I interrupted you, I apologize,
Emily: It’s Okay.
Doug: I just wanted to make sure that that, that that value impact really got out there.
Emily: Yeah. And it’s kids that go into the foster care system are far more likely to have a future impacts of substance abuse of violence towards other members of the community and property destruction, and then use the youth incarceration. So I don’t have the exact statistics in front of us actually, on a statewide level, we’re working to streamline some of those just fixed, but I know at one point, it was 80% more likely that a kid who’s gone through the foster system, that they would deal with substance abuse in the future. And it’s just not good for children to be separated. Obviously, sometimes it has to happen, there are those families that no amount of support will help them. But it’s far less likely than you would think if you can get early intervention. We have a 99% success rate.
Emily: So the most at risk troubled families, many of these parents were in the foster system themselves,
Doug: I can’t figure the thing I did that had a 99% success rate.
Emily: I know. Me either. You know, these are the most adverse families, a lot of them came out of the foster system themselves, a lot of them, you know, had struggled with substance abuse and are just out of rehabilitation and newly sober and if we can get in there and support them with both basic needs, like diapers, connection to housing services, connection to food services, connections to job services, but also, our therapeutic classroom. Placement requires that parents go through parenting workshops and classes as well, to learn from others, but also to find a new community, I can’t tell you how many beautiful relationships have formed because like all of us, when we are new parents, we end up making friends with other people that our friends or our kids friends, right, like it’s everybody does it.
Emily: But in this situation. In this situation. Seeing the bonds that formed between the parents in our program with each other has been really amazing. We’ve had a family that was granted a housing build project by Habitat for Humanity, and like three other families from a family place went and volunteered on the site with them to support them, because they’re such good friends now.
Doug: That’s excellent,
Emily: though, it’s been really beautiful to see those people. You know, I had a mom tell me once I was interviewing her for a video production project we were working on. And I said, you know, what’s the most valuable thing you’ve received from a family place? And she’s like, well, the therapeutic classroom has been amazing for my child. And the parent education has been amazing for me. But I have to say it’s the friendships I’ve come out of it. You know, I grew up in and out of foster care. My parents were incredibly unsafe and on, you know, on and off drugs. I don’t have any family members that I feel comfortable and safe leaving my children with, I don’t have any friends from my old time, like growing up, that I can leave my children with safety. But now I have two or three other families with that we’d swap, you know, childcare for each other.
Emily: They’re the people like all I can imagine not being able to call my mom and say, this was a really hard parenting day. What do I do and having that so seeing these amazing parents work so hard to make a better life for their children, but then also find community with each other has been phenomenally rewarding. And that’s it. You can’t put a price tag on that. But you can, you know, our cost per child per year is somewhere around eight to $9,000. Right, which is not nothing.
Emily: It’s it’s an amount, but a cost for a child to go through foster care for a year in Oregon is $30,000 and then the cost for a youth Correctional Facility, which is, if you follow that path,
Doug: It’s not going to be anywhere close to $30,000.
Emily: No. It’s a $100,000 or more, because that’s a statistic I have from night or from 2018. So it goes up. And if you look at the cost of prevention, it’s just a much, much better investment. You know, if you take your heart out of the equation, it has nothing to do with these little innocent faces, you just look at the facts. This program is saved Yamhill county and the state of Oregon and possibly the federal government, hundreds of 1000s of dollars, and it’s better for everyone involved. You know, we’ve got also health implications, kids who go through foster care, and youth correctional are more likely to have heart attacks, more likely to be diabetic, more likely to be obese because of that trauma that lives in their bodies. So on every level, it’s incredibly, I’m so proud to work for this organization.
Emily: because it’s so so, so effective. And we also work really hand in hand. So a family place is this program, that traumatic preschool or trauma informed program, our umbrella organization is Lutheran Community Services Northwest. And that started almost 100 years ago this year, which is really cool. And we started out as a mental health organization for low income children and families. And we’ve stayed true to that throughout the years. And different counties in different districts have different programs that they offer. We are one of I think four relief nurseries under the Lutheran umbrella. But there’s 40, across the state of Oregon in and out of Lutheran, but other programs that we offer our school based mental health. So in the city of Newburgh and Dendy any child from kindergarten to eighth grade can have free mental health therapy through a grant with the Austin Family Foundation, and through our grant process at Lutheran, so a lot of our kids graduate to kindergarten and then are directly handed off to the next support group. So I love this umbrella organization that fully refers in between, we have an immigration program, where are people that would like to work towards legal status, or go from green cards to citizenship etc. We have a program that has them work with a Department of Justice certified immigration counselor to go through that process, again, getting families the support they need where they are, we have a Safe Families program for some of the most at risk stressed families that need to find temporary, at least overnight, or maybe up to a month. places for their children to stay. So they don’t lose custody through the foster system. That’s called Safe Families. So again, we all refer to each other and work together to make sure that families are supported at every level they’re at.
Doug: Well, and the thing that I that I really appreciate, and we think is amazing about the kind of work that you do in your mission driven organizations like Lutheran services Northwest, or no Lutheran Community Services,
Doug: I got it wrong.
Emily: That’s okay
Doug: The thing that at least that I think is really amazing is you know, now, you know, I’m an amateur economist, and so being an amateur at anything can be dangerous. But you know, when I think about your How do you produce the most value for the economy? And the the way that you a lot of people think well, the way you produce the most value is, you know, you take the things that were doing really good and you do those better, that’s actually not the best way to produce the most value, the way to produce the most value is to take the things that we’re doing very poorly, and do them, okay. Because, you know, because there’s a lot of places where we waste tons of resources. And, you know, one of the, one of the biggest places where we have a major opportunity cost for the economy and a big sink of public resources is in trying to help all these at risk people, well, if we can help more at risk, people become self sufficient, you get what we call a twofer. Right.
Doug: Number one is it reduces the amount that has to be invested by the public, which is, in a lot of cases, money they don’t have anyway. And then number two, is that you now create net positive economic activity, and you can actually get a virtuous cycle going on because then you need to have a smaller law enforcement footprint, you know.
Doug: You need a public safety footprint, you know, then, you know, there’s you know, you don’t have to pare as much vandalism, as much property destruction, you know, it’s, you know, the, the, the cycle can go either downward or upward or, you know, everybody thinks about downward spiral but there’s actually such a thing as an upward spiral
Emily: Definitely is.
Doug: And once you hit that tipping point, I think you can really create that. And I think that’s, I mean, to me mission driven organizations are fascinating to me just because of how, I guess I would say how effectively they you they create results with very modest resources.
Emily: I think that, and that depends on organization. But the reason that I work for Lutheran community services and a family place, is I went to a luncheon and everybody wants to help kids, right? under the banner of health, the kids help families do better, but like, how are you actually doing it? And is it a fact driven work that you’re doing, you know, isn’t
Doug: Reach on Facebook that’s how I’m going to help the kids.
Emily: Yeah, if you’re just gathering a bunch of coats and throwing it at people and saying, great, you’re warm, now you’re fine. But not addressing that they will need a coat every year. You know, it’s like the old Bible saying, which is hilarious, because I just went over about how we’re not a church, but you can teach a man to fish.
Emily: and it will last for a lifetime. You know, that’s, I think what we do so well at Lutheran is we look at the evidence based research, and we’re constantly recalibrating the way that we do things to be the most effective through evidence, our therapeutic classroom, and outreach programs are all overseen by what’s called our advisory council.
Emily: And you know, we are, they are teachers, they are nurses, they are school counselors, they are psycho therapists and psychologists in the community, as well as people from that. And they, what they do is they gather research, I love our research nerds.
Emily: They just love that stuff. That’s not what I want to do. But I’m so glad they do it. And they figure out how exactly to help our, our classroom and enrolled families, the best possible way, but also how to extend our reach out in the best possible way. But when I went to this luncheon, I think four years ago now, and I was like, Okay, another luncheon, ladies like to get together and, you know, put on their nice dresses and talk about how they’re helping their kids and write a check. But I was really, really impacted because they started off with. We all know we’re here to help children, we love our community. But here’s the science of why we did it. And they put this great visual of here is what a three year old brain looks like. And it’s you know, black and white, not X ray, but MRI photo or something like that. And there’s really great definition between black and white, but it’s mostly white and kind of puffy. Here is the brain of a child who’s gone through extreme neglect, and you have much more black, and it’s much darker. And the crevices aren’t as deep, but they’re really funky looking. And it’s literally like, here, the two scans 40% of a child’s brain is developed by or excuse me, at birth 80% is developed by age three, that’s a huge, huge deal. That’s a huge jump. People say Oh, little kids won’t remember it. No, their brains are literally forming the pathways that will serve them for the rest of their life, from birth to age three. And that’s why we target that age group. By age 5 90% of your brain is developed. And there’s things you can do, you know, there’s intensive therapies, we can relearn things.
Emily: But it’s so much harder. It’s like think about the kids that learn two languages.
Emily: When they’re at Biddy, that’s their brain is built differently, it’s much more beneficial. It’s much harder for you as if you were to start, go learn Chinese tomorrow. But if my two year old nephew is taught, he’s going to be fluent within like six to nine months. So it’s, it’s a really prime time. And the fact that this organization has said, Here is the science. So this is why we’re going to do it. And we’re going to do it this way. And if a different study comes out, and we need to recalibrate, we pivot, because.
Emily: It’s really, really important that we are fact based. And, you know, my district director is a family therapist. He knows what’s going on in our community. And he sees like, here’s a hole in what the county provides, how can we get in there and provide that support for our families and every other family in the county that needs it. So it’s really inspiring to be a part of an organization that, you know, feels good because who doesn’t like to help little kids, right?
Emily: You don’t you. You don’t have a soul. But but to know that it is impactful for not just that moment in time that you’re giving them that code or that box of diapers or whatever, but you helping their brain develop. So in 20 years, they’re a stronger person, they’re less likely to You know, be affected by drug abuse by, you know other life stressors that come their way they have these brain pathways that will help them navigate through those hard those hard times and make better choices and a community of 20 year old’s and make better choices are gonna make a much better community. We’re all about
Doug: Making a big difference.
Emily: A huge difference. So if you go back and you look in Eugene, where the first relief nursery started, and yes, that actually is in Oregon, the first relief nursery started here in Oregon, 40 years ago, they’re actually tracking the people that were in that program, where they are, what the differences are, and then also looking at other people in those blocks.
Emily: In those neighborhoods, to kind of see the trajectory. It’s amazing the difference that real true early intervention can make. So I just rambled on a lot. Sorry.
Doug: That’s all right. That’s amazing stuff. Well, let’s see, tell us where where can people go to find more? Because I mean, I think this is, you know, this, at least to me, I really feel like this kind of thing is, you know, is the you know, is really the wave of the future, just because I don’t think that there’s enough public resources to have these kind of things be publicly funded.
Doug: That in the fact that you’ve tried putting things under a, you know, under a government program, generally speaking, by nets is by necessity makes it very bureaucratic. And so you don’t have that, that agility that I think is really necessary to.
Doug: Have that big value multiplier. And so I really see what you’re doing as the as the Future of Social Work.
Emily: Well, thank you. I think that we’re in a really unique position where we are a nonprofit, and we are independently operated. But the county of Oregon for IBM Hill county has seen the value and repeatedly given us grants and monies to extend and then we are also in a unique situation, or we’ve contracted with Yamhill County where we take on some of those social work things that it makes more sense for us to do then for their employees to do. So while we are very much independent and not a government agency, we do benefit from some.
Emily: Of that government funding and our, like our expansion in Willamina. Willamina, I think is one eighth of the Yamhill County population. It’s a tiny little area. But it was over a third of all CPS calls, it was very, very, very depressed.
Emily: Former logging community with some really big substance abuse issues. And it’s also right next to one of the big Native American tribal community.
Emily: So there’s a lot of, you know, back and forth support there. So when we did that big expansion, putting a to classroom facility in yamhill County, we got permission from the school district to use their last buildable spot. So it’s next to both all elementary, middle and high school buildings. We were given money from, you know, over I think $100,000 from the county to do this expansion. We were given money from the grand Ron’s United Tribes, which was really wonderful and amazing partnership, as well as different local banks, like first federal and other local projects. So it was a really collaborative effort.
Emily: So while you’re an independent nonprofit, we are really proud partners of all of those agencies, and different groups. And it’s been really amazing to see that they get our program, and they support our program consistently. But if they want to find out more, which is why you asked me and when another tangent again. Our website is the best spot for people to find us in his family place relief dot o RG.
Emily: And you can find us on Facebook, as well, family place relief, and Instagram. And.
Doug: I’ll make sure to put those links in the show notes.
Emily: Yes, please do. And then we’ve got a YouTube channel at all. But I don’t have enough followers to have the at thing. It’s like a bunch of garbage. And we’ll get there. And there’s donate buttons as well as a lot of different pages on our website about what we do, and how we do it. There’s some great videos, excuse me, and some great things. And then I also have to say 2020 has brought stress for everyone. But for those already living on the margins. It’s been incredibly stressful. We’ve been really blessed this year to have a team of teachers and outreach workers on the ground who hustled and pivoted. We started working with local food banks and church soup kitchens to deliver meals we deliver over 200 meals a week right now as well as food boxes, our free diaper bank, which is the entry point to most of our new potential clients is that free diaper banks all over the county, our usage has gone up by 230%.
Emily: And all the experts out there in child abuse and prevention world are saying that kids aren’t in schools. That means CPS calls have gone down, which is a very bad thing. People are stressed and at home. So we very much expect an uptick in abuse and neglect calls coming up as the world opens up.
Emily: But we’ve been really, really pleased to be able to pivot to a mobile model. We’ve been doing front yard house visits and mental health checks. We’ve been doing a lot of virtual things, as well as our food box delivery program has put us in front of people’s homes consistently every week to again do that. Mental health check in and support. So I have to thank our volunteers for making all those things possible in such a weird year.
Doug: Yeah. That’s, that’s outstanding. Well, really appreciate your time, Emily, and hope you have a wonderful day.
Doug: And everybody go check out a website
Emily: Thank you.
Doug: Okay so following up on the conversation with Emily. The thing that really spoke to me or kind of stuck in my head, is just the impact that these community organizations really have and just how important they are, to really keeping keeping a lot of these communities stable. I think that just the, the lack of funding for government programs, and just the historical lack of effectiveness of a lot of these programs, I think has really left a lot of people at risk. and community organizations like Lutheran services Northwest and really stepped in the gap to pick up the slack there. And so I just like to really advocate for people to support your local community organizations, if they’re doing fundraising drives or auctions or something like that, to really step in and try to help them out. And incidentally, that’s actually one of the things that I like to do, I try to do with my business. So my business is with expense reduction consulting. And I help organizations like within Family Services Northwest, to be able to reduce their their overhead at not by letting people go. But by negotiating and implementing either better and more creative contracts, so that they can have more resourcing to serve the community. If you would, if you’re interested in and talk with me about this, I would love to hear from you. Please schedule some time with me at www dot meet Doug dot biz, that’s m-e-e-t-d-o-u-g.b-i-z. I’m really looking forward to hearing from you or just hearing your stories, or maybe even recording a podcast and I hope you have a wonderful rest your day.
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