Posted by Why?, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2007 at 8:09 pm
It does seem pretty callous. Landlords are required to give tenants 30 days eviction notice, and that is for adults. Why only 3 weeks for teenagers? Why treat these girls like inconveniences? Why fail children whose families have already failed them?
ACS, please reconsider and do right by these kids! Life has already been cruel to them and they deserve a stable home and a stable school year. Let them stay till mid-June.
Posted by Midtown Mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 10, 2007 at 7:33 pm
I understand your decision to close Caravan House in order to pursue other priorities. What I do not understand is the urgency of closing Caravan House before the end of the school year.
Your web link says you feel justified in closing Caravan House because it serves girls who usually come from communities other than Palo Alto. That may be a good rationale for changing your services but it is not a good rationale for disrupting the lives of these girls in mid-semester. The present clients may not have come from Palo Alto, but once you brought them to Caravan House, they became members of our community, and now they are more than mere clients of Caravan House. They are also students enrolled in schools, and as such, they are members of a school community.
These girls won't be able to concentrate on their few remaining weeks of schoolwork when they are worried about finding a new place to live in only three weeks. They will have little incentive to continue their studies until they are moved elsewhere. It will it be difficult for them to enroll in the same classes, and it is unlikely they can pick up the curriculum in the same place and successfully complete the semester in a new school. School is much more than seat-time. I fear this semester will be lost to them.
You have pledged to ensure a smooth transition for your clients to new living arrangements and new therapists. But you cannot move their school communities with them, and you cannot ensure a smooth transition and continuity in their studies. But you do have the ability extend their deadline and let them finish their school year without disruption. These girls need a reprieve until June. You say your financial picture is rosy, so what's the hurry?
Posted by Mom of Paly student, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 11, 2007 at 5:41 pm
I agree with the the comments above. I attend the ACS auctions and donate money to the cause every year. ACS, please continue to operate Caravan House until the end of the school year. To sum it up in the words of one of the residents quoted in the Weekly, "I don't think they realize it's not a house they're taking. They are taking our home!"
Posted by Jill, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2007 at 10:19 am
I also agree with Midtown Mom. Casting out girls who have sought shelter at Caravan House mid-semester does not make sense, even if another home in Palo Alto could be found (which I haven't heard any assurance of). What disruption! In my mind, it calls into question the guiding principles of ACS. Let the girls stay until the end of the semester!
Posted by MM, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Feb 13, 2007 at 11:12 pm
It's bad enough to be a foster child. It's even worse to be treated like one.
Being yanked out of one school and deposited in another just a few months before the end of the school year makes it all the harder for a teen who is already at risk to stay on a diploma track. The sooner ACS reverses its short-sighted decision, the better for these girls.
Posted by discussed!, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2007 at 6:25 am
ACS has failed these the current and future residents of Caravan House Terribly. The fund raising efforts are a joke and should have been focused on many years ago so the deficient in the budget could have been remedied. Now the poor business decisions and planning falls on the ACS board and executive direct but MOST impact the GIRLS! The one who need Caravan...I think removing them from school, the non-effort to keep caravan open and the message ACS send that CH is not important is abominable!
Posted by ML, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2007 at 11:16 am
ACS has a wonderful reputation in the community, and while the closure of Caravan House is unfortunate, it will usher in a new phase of growth for ACS to serve even MORE teens and families. As presented in the announcement, ACS has done its due diligence with the best interests for the welfare of the girls, staff, and community in mind. Keep up the great work, ACS – and thank you for 30 years and more!
Posted by DB, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2007 at 2:25 pm
I have read through the comments and have a sense of the concerns expressed. ACS seems to have a solid reputation within the Palo Alto community and many parents have trusted the staff at ACS to help their children. Based on the reputation of ACS within our community, I would hope that we could trust them to do what they have planned in the best interest of our community. Second guessing decisions based on what the media reports and what might be an individual's interpretation of a letter is not useful. If people need to have clarifying questions answered, they should certainly call ACS and ask them--I did.... They are very open.
Posted by Paly mom, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2007 at 3:57 pm
DB...I received the actual ACS letter in the mail and had the same reaction as the first two comments. I agree ACS does have a solid reputation in the community, otherwise, I would not donate money to them every year. However, I feel they are making the wrong decision in this case.
Posted by Midtown Mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2007 at 7:44 pm
Your response on Feb 10 inviting everyone to read your website to learn about your decision to close Caravan House explains the reasons for closing Caravan House very well. You said the link would provide answers to everyone's questions and concerns. I beg to differ. Your website does not explain the concern that has been expressed many times above: why rush the girls out of C.H. in the middle of the term?
Your silence on this subject lends support to the idea that you disregarded the interests of the students still residing at C.H. If you made a mistake, correct it. If you did not make a mistake, please explain why the people here should not be concerned.
People who chime in on this subject are the kind of people who value what ACS does for the kids in our community, and who want to continue to support your work. We don't want to give you a black eye - on the contrary, we want you to restore our faith in you.
Posted by Kayla Silva, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 14, 2007 at 8:44 pm
Hi I am Kayla Silva. One of the residents at Caravan House and also the girl who asked Palo Alto Weekly to publish our story in the paper this week. This is a very hard time as I am sure ACS does not understand. I have read the comments above and I am sooo glad to hear that this community has a heart and is trying to support us. I feel as if ACS doesn't care what so ever about us having three weeks to say goodbye to our friends and also find a new place to live. Yes we all know that were not born and raised here in Palo Alto but we all did grow emotinally here. I know that here is were I started my life. A place free of physical abuse and neglect. I felt safe here. I was happy here. Now the only place that I feel most comfortable is being taken away. This is all because of what finacial problems? Because of statistics? Is that what matters? Not the life of us? How it will effect us? I'm sure that the people with the comments above supporting ACS are the employees of ACS trying to cover themselves because honestly there is no way to justify there desision. They know it's wrong but "hey if I can make a quick buck it's worth it" at least in their eyes. I have come to realize that they do know what they are doing. They know there taking somthing important away from us. It just doesn't matter to them. I mean they get to go "home" at the end of the night. I wrote this poem they day of the news...
Arid, must I call them arid?
No ardent. I'll convince myself otherwise.
They made their amends and walked away
showing adruous emotions *cough, cough*
This wasn't a conspiracy. No, never!
How dare I think such a thing?
I must be amiable.
Thery're hungry, were serving.
Getting full yet?
I'm sure the essence of my life effect them.
At least not yet.
The meeting that should have included our society was arcane
or should I say esoteric?
It sounds bleak that we have been gven thre weeks.
Posted by Christine, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2007 at 6:08 pm
I have been involved with the Caravan House since last summer. I can honesty say that the service and help that it offers to it's residents is critical. We are talking about bright young ladies who do not have anywhere else to go and are taken into an environment of patience and understanding and are given the opportunity to feel safe, sometimes for the first time, and hopefully start to heal.
I do not pretend to understand all of the factors that were involved in making the decision to close the Caravan House. Nor will I pretend to understand the explanations that have been provided by the ACS as they have been confusing, misleading, and have not addressed some of the main concerns that have been raised.
I will say this: The overall handling of this situation has been poor. The staff at the Caravan House know it, the residents know it, and I think ACS knows it as well.
Now, I am not saying that the ACS has to continue to support out of district cases long term, meaning bringing on new cases from outside of Palo Alto. But does it honestly make sense or seem fair to give the staff and CURRENT residents weeks to completely get up and find new lives? I read a quote from ACS that said one of the reasons the staff was given such a short warning was that they were afraid they would leave in favor of new jobs- Does that make any sense? People who dedicate their lives to helping others are not the kind of people that would jump ship and leave the residents to fend for themselves in search of a new job. I personally find that statement an insult as I am sure anyone with common sense would. We are not talking about cut-throat lawyers here but a smart, empathetic group of individuals who spend their days helping others try to improve their lives.
I also feel that one of the most disturbing aspects of how this was handled is that the house will be closed down before the school year is finished. This is an extremely disruptive exercise and it makes me ask the question: What were you thinking? Are budgets so tight that a few more months would have broken down the entire ACS system? I think we all know the answer to that.
I am a concerned member of the community of Palo Alto that hopes that the ACS can find a way to fix this ugly situation that they have created.
Posted by Why?, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2007 at 7:16 pm
Christine, you asked an excellent question: "Are budgets so tight that a few more months would have broken down the entire ACS system? " Here is the answer, straight from the ACS website:
6. Is ACS in financial trouble?
NO, quite the contrary! With all our generous donors, ACS has maintained and grown our cash reserves and has had success with our fundraising efforts in the past two consecutive years.
ACS, your generous donors wanted to support all of your programs, including Caravan House. We can still support your future priorities, but I, for one, cannot support your present ill-considered interruption of the lives of these girls before the end of the school year. I'm with Christine and others here, asking that you do the right thing.
Posted by Concerned Mom, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 16, 2007 at 11:14 am
In my experience therapists are very attuned to the values of family and society and the mutual obligations of individuals with the various groups who interact. It is hard for me to understand how ACS could have overlooked the relationship between student and school –not only for academics but for the relationship between the student and her school community. Girls in Carvan House will need to form new relationships with the people they live with (new "family" including new rules, new food, new community, ) and then there will be new therapists (and new doctors, new dentists, etc.) PLUS new teachers, new classes, new classmates, new school environment. If the transition is made in summer, the girls would have time to adjust to non-school things without the added complication of an interrupted school year.
Moving out of Caravan House in the summer, then starting a new school in the fall would remove the school stress aspect of moving. Instead of changing 100% of the girls lives overnight, they could phase out of being a student here, deal with new home/new care providers over the summer, and then in fall deal with new school at a natural time when all kids are facing a fresh start. Fall is a natural time to be new at school. Fall is a time when all students are looking to make new friends whereas in the middle of the year, friendship groups are more established and less welcoming. And obviously fall is the right time to be tackling new classes with new teachers. March is an unnatural time for all of these things and March is especially an unnatural time for teenagers to be plunked into a new school. No family I know of would choose March to start a new high school so why would ACS choose March?
Disrupting these girls lives is hard enough. ACS should understand how much extra distress they're forcing on the girls by making them switch schools in March. C'mon ACS, show us that you actually understand the magnitude of the disruption this move will create for these girls. Show us what your values are.
Posted by Bo Peep, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Feb 17, 2007 at 1:35 pm
ACS is sticking it's head in the sand and refusing to respond to the question of when to close Caravan House. Their unwillingness to address the concerns that have been expressed in this thread shows their minds are made up and they don't care about the girls education, nor do they care about the concern of people who are questioning the [lack of] wisdom of evicting the girls before June. ACS is too wrapped up in their lovely new vision to worry about 3 hapless girls.
Notice that they responded overnight to the very first post and said people could find answers to all their questions and concerns at the link to ACS. Well, look at the numberous questions and concerns that have continued for more than a week -questions not answerd in their link - and all we have heard here is stony silence from ACS. Concerned Mom, you asekd ACS to "show us what your values are". ACS has lost it's values and doesn't know where to find them. (Oh dear, I think I've lost my check book and don't know where to find it.)
Posted by Theresa, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 17, 2007 at 4:40 pm
Are there any other agencies who could take over Caravan House?
I think it's criminal to toss these girls out in the middle of the school year, especially since they come from such difficult situations. I've long been a supporter of ACS and their goals, mainly because I spent a couple of years in foster care myself back when I was in high school (well before a place like Caravan House existed -- which would have helped me so much).
But this decision to close Caravan House has me rethinking my support.
Is there any way to keep it open, at least until the school year ends? Is there ANY way to manage it more effectively so that it can remain open indefinitely?
Posted by Baffled, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2007 at 8:42 am
It is immeasurably sad that ACS cares more about future clients than present clients. I don't understand their sense of "school is not our problem" when it comes to closing Caravan House. ACS realized it was providing shelter, caretaking, and counseling - and it planned for transferring those aspects to other agencies. If ACS had waited till June that would have been enough. However, by rushing to implement their grand plan on their own schedule for the convenience of their fiscal calendar - in total disregard of the school calendar by which teenagers live - ACS overlooked or discounted society's plan for teenagers, which is to be students! The job of teenagers is to prepare themselves educationally for adulthood so that they can get further education or training and get jobs so that they will someday be self-sufficient and support themselves and their offspring. Ripping teens out of their schools before the end of the year denies the seriousness and importance of their role as students.
If ACS fails to understand the importance that society places on education, how are we to judge ACS's ability to understand the importance of society's other expectations in life - for which they propose to offer counseling?
Posted by Disappointed, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Feb 18, 2007 at 7:53 pm
I am surprised at ACS's lack of 360º vision on this topic. I think they made a mistake and need to own up to it and fix the problem. Their stonewalling is giving me a new and not so favorable view of how they think and operate. I have admired ACS greatly in the past, but now I am feeling disappointment. It's an organization that has done much good and will do good again, but this needlessly rushed episode in their history is a sad way to end the 30-year run with Caravan House. Sadly, what I will remember about Caravan House is how it was ended.
Posted by mom of a paly student, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 20, 2007 at 3:16 pm
Someone posted a comment suggesting contacting ACS with questions and so I did! It was actually really helpful and appeased my concerns. I also realized that most of the comments on here are based on rumors and interpretations and not on facts. During my phone conversation with ACS I learned that their number one priority is to work with each kid’s DSS Social Worker to find a local placement. This will ensure that two of the three girls can continue to attend Paly until the end of the school year. There is a law that governs group home kids stating that those kids can attend the school of their choice even if living in a different city.
I also learned that the three kids that are at Caravan House now have only been there for a short period of time. One arrived last October for what was supposed to be her third attempt at making it a successful stay at Caravan House. The other two arrived in the middle of December. In terms of school, the first girl enrolled at Paly in October and one started school in January. The last one was not able to enroll at Paly as there were concerns over her safety and the safety of other students there. She was ultimately enrolled last week in a continuation school in Mountain View.
What was most interesting in my conversation with ACS is the way the program is funded. Each year, ACS has to fundraise over $140,000 above and beyond what DSS pays for the program in order to provide the services there. That amount has to be raised even if the program is full (6 kids) because of the extra costs of operating a group home in an area such as ours. Because of changes at the County and State level, DSS has started to prefer to reallocate funds to foster family placement and to Child Protective Services. It costs the state $5,600 per month per kid if placed at Caravan House versus $1,200 if placed in a foster family. These changes resulted in Caravan House not receiving enough referrals anymore or referrals for children deemed appropriate to receive services there. This trend has been going on for the past few years now. Understandably, this creates a financial strain on the organization and results in ACS having to fundraise an additional $140,000 ($280,000 total from the community) to keep the program afloat. Caravan House costs $40,000 a month to run. At the end of January 2007, ACS spent $280,000 to operate the Program. In terms of revenues, ACS received a total of $137,066 from DSS for that same period. ACS had budgeted to receive $190,562 by the end of January. The difference makes for an additional $53,496 ACS had to raise to keep the Program open. That $53K is in addition to the budgeted fundraising they already do to support the program. Also I did not know that ACS only gets paid for the days the kids are in the program and that by law, they have to have a minimum number of staff onsite at all times whether there is one kids or six. That gets expensive! ACS estimates that they would have to fundraise over $300,000 to remain open until the end of the school year thus the unfortunate decision to close the program now.
The other thing that was interesting is about the kids and DSS. The paper made it sound like those kids are out there to fend for themselves. I did not realize how much resources and support are behind each kid. All the kids have a personal Social Worker who is responsible for their well being and placement. The Social Worker is only one individual in a myriad of other DSS workers.
In terms of the staff, ACS assured me that all full time staff has been offered well compensated severance packages which are NOT the norm in the world of non-profits.
I started this message by stating that contacting ACS directly may be the best thing to do for all of you to get the answers to your questions. I did it and now fully understand their decision making. I also feel confident that the 3 girls there will be treated fairly and that everything will be done to find them appropriate housing situations so the disruption will be kept to a minimum.
Posted by Disbeliever, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2007 at 8:16 pm
Hey, ACS insider (aka mom of paly student) -
You don't sound like a concerned citizen trying to understand what ACS is doing. You sound like a shill for ACS. Too much detail. Too much familiarity with ACS funding. Too familiar with DSS, as if ordinary people know what that stands for. Obviously, it means something to you-further evidance of being an insider. Not only that, you write in the wide-eyed style of one of those true believers who write first-person accounts touting the wonders of (whatever) - in your case: "I called ACS and now I see the light."
You put down the comments of people who have posted here to "rumors and interpretations." Rumors? I noticed people commented on what was said on ACS's own web site that ACS so kindly provided near the beginning of this thread. In fact, "Why?" posted a direct quote from ACS's FAQ's, but you're saying that ACS's web page isn't factual? And please, forgive us for interpreting what we read on ACS's own web page. So silly of us!
Posted by Kaya silva, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 20, 2007 at 8:55 pm
I see how the mom of a paly student knows so much of DSS and the financial placement going on with ACS but yet knows nothing of confidentiality. You know although names are not accessible still there stories remain on the page. Funny how it is incorrect that we do not all have safe placements ready for us. Matter a fact my friend Raven here doesn't have a placement what so ever. Me well I found a dump house that will except me for the maximum of well 3 months so I will be moving again soon after that thanks to ACS. May I also imply that Caravan House staff have a 2 weeks pay after being laid of. A month’s work at CH doesn't even cover all their bills. As for ACS raising money for CH are social workers at DSS are the ones paying for our living situation like food, clothes, etc. they are paying for us living there also. As for furniture, technology, and accessories like books they are all donated. Nice job ACS. You'll never have the right answer to justify your decision. You know what your doing is wrong. It doesn't matter anyway. We know we have to leave and start over again. We know that it will always be the same. As for me I know that everything that I work for is being thrown away only by you. But I know that I will stay strong. I will not let you tear me down. Not this time.
Posted by hmmm....raven!!!, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 20, 2007 at 9:34 pm
ok so i totally agree with kayla...she is completely right!
i dont understand why after i made a petition and used their logo on it they(ACS) gets mad and wants me to take it down but they can make comments about my living situation on their website...and the PA weekly website!!! you guys are truly B***s pardon me but its true...
continue to get mad about al this ACS i would love to see you sue me...it would make a great story!!!!
Posted by Outraged, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 20, 2007 at 11:46 pm
Whether Mom of Paly Student is the outsider that she purports to be or the insider that Disbeliever accuses her of being, it is truly disturbing that ACS would disclose personal information about their clients' individual histories, school placements, and reason for placement, as reported by Mom of Paly Student, 2nd paragraph. This is no one's business but the girls' and there is something rather sordid about this way of dealing with bad P.R.
Posted by Why?, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 21, 2007 at 11:40 am
"If people need to have clarifying questions answered, they should certainly call ACS and ask them--I did.... They are very open."
Mom of Paly Student said:
"Someone posted a comment suggesting contacting ACS with questions and so I did! It was actually really helpful and appeased my concerns" Then Mom of PS passed along the personal info she got from phoning ACS.
1. Why are people being urged to call ACS and why is ACS so OPEN on the phone that they divulge confidential information? Not professional!
2. I thought ACS's initial response which referred people to their web site was excellent - but it did not answer ALL questions, and now ACS is acting like the Sphinx about the unanswered questions - except for getting people to write testimonials to phone-calling. Not professsional!
"[T]he explanations that have been provided by the ACS ... have been confusing, misleading, and have not addressed some of the main concerns that have been raised... The overall handling of this situation has been poor.... [I hope ACS will] fix this ugly situation that they have created." Amen.
Posted by Kayla Silva, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 24, 2007 at 4:10 pm
I went to the board meeting on Wednesday And they completly lied to my face. They said no one in this community wants to help us out. That no one wants to help finacialy when there are so many trying to but they tell you all there is no finacial problem. They won't keep there doors open any longer than Febuary 28th. Even though they said they wouldn't until we all had "proper placements". A bunch of BS to me. They really don't care for us. I hope everyone can see the clear view and not support them anymore. They took my home. Why would I help them keep their homes?
Posted by SL, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 26, 2007 at 8:02 am
I understand the decision to close Caravan House, but I'm sad to see it go.
I'm sad for the girls kicked out so hurriedly.
I'm sad about ACS's handling of this PR disaster.
I'm sad that ACS has damaged its reputation.
It's going to take two or three years before I recover and feel like supporting ACS again. Even though I know they'll continue to do good work, every time I hear "ACS" I'm going to think about the Caravan House fiasco.
Posted by Kayla Silva, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Feb 24, 2008 at 12:58 pm
Wow. It's been a year now and I'm looking back on this. I'm not quite sure if everyones forgotten about any of this or if they still remember because although it has only been year people just move on with their lives.
I'd like to fill people in on what happened to Caravan House though, people may never read this page again. I guess I can say I view back on it from time to time.
Anyway, Caravan House was sold. It became a home to a family. Sometimes I'll take the train and I'll see it. I miss it. Me and the girl were separated but we knew that would happen anyway. We couldn't stay together. I miss the staff and our field trips. I actually miss all our chores too sometimes. Well, that doesn't matter anymore. Lisa was sent to a group home in San Jose. What was cool about that is her therapists got a job were Lisa went so it's not too much that changed because she was the newest.and her parents were still there to support her anyway. At least if anything had went completely wrong she still had her parents. She wasn't alone. Raven ended up getting to live with her brothers foster parents in Saratoga. Even though she wasn't living in Palo Alto she still attends Paly because she's been there since freshman year. I contact her from time to time and we talk. I think she's doing okay. She's with her brother. As for me, I didn't get what I thought I'd get. A healthy, steady transition. I was sent to a shelter like group home. Which was in fact shut down as well now. Not to go into detail but that lace wasn't a very good place. Staff weren't very good at being counselors. From there I dragged myself with my supporters from Social Services on looking on what I can do, where I can go to live somewhere steady. One of my supporters found this fund. "Help One Child" Also a non profit organization that actually tries to help kids. My supporter contacted this organization and told them my situation. They got right on board and found this couple in the Los Altos Hills who were more than willing to help me. They took me into their home and became my foster parents. The nice thing was, is that they weren't foster parents to begin with but they did what they had to do to help me. I'm currently 18 now and still living with my foster parents who are helping me grow into the young adult I am. I love them. They're helping me go to Cosmetology School. Something I've always wanted to do. I guess I can either hate ACS or thank them for kicking me out. I guess if I was never kicked out I wouldn't have found my place now but yet they never did anything to care on where I was going or about my life after the tragedy. I did alone with Social Services. To this day I guess I can still say that I do not like ACS and continue to ask citizens not to support them.