How Family Builders began

Family Builders was founded back in 1975 by Ann Hardy and was for years known as Parents Assistance Center, or PAC for short. Back in 1994, Hardy wrote a short essay on how it all began.

Here is that essay, with a few minor spelling corrections. Note that several statements are made to “current” operations of Family Builders-then PAC-and that those statements were, to the best of my knowledge, true when Hardy wrote this in 1994.

 

PAC – How it all Began

By Ann F. Hardy

PAC happened in 1975 because a group of mental health professionals in Oklahoma County recognized a gap in services which would still exist if it weren’t for PAC. Traditional mental health services had not proven effective in preventing child abuse. The National Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse in Denver had developed models for service delivery which were effective. These included parent groups, such as Parents Anonymous and in-home services such as Scan Services of Arkansas.

I first became involved in April 1975 during a meeting at the Faculty House sponsored by the Oklahoma County Mental Health Association for the purpose of kicking off the first Parents Anonymous group in Oklahoma County. In attendance were a variety of professionals interested in the prevention of child abuse. The speakers were Sharon Palone, Executive Director of Scan Services of Arkansas, and the Regional Coordinator of Parents Anonymous, whose name I don’t remember.

After the meeting, I got to chatting with Dr. Diane Willis, pediatric psychologist at the Child Study Center and mentioned this this was something I was interested in and would be willing to give some time to. I was not working at the time, due to some illness in the family but was sitting on a lot of health and mental health boards.

This was on Monday afternoon about 5:00. On Tuesday afternoon, about 5:00, I received a call from the Regional Coordinator of Parents Anonymous asking me if I would serve as the professional sponsor for the Parents Anonymous group, scheduled to meet at 7:00 that evening. It had been announced on radio, TV, newspapers, and notices to agencies.

 

I said, “Certainly not! If I had that kind of time, I would be getting paid for it.” After a long sad tale and much cajoling, I agreed to sit in on the group for that night only. After that there was no place to stop.

At this first meeting, there were two families, three adults and three children. Clients began calling my home immediately and no one else was willing to take over. I was stuck.

It was a totally volunteer program for the first 14 months. During this period, case load grew rapidly, and it shortly became obvious that paid staff, office space, supplies, etc. were going to be needed if the program was to continue and thrive.

Dr. Diane Willis, pediatric psychologist, and Dr. Wanda Draper, child development specialist, were involved from the beginning. Dr. Teresa Stacy, pediatric radiologist, became involved early on as did Judge Halley and many others in the medical, child welfare, and court systems.

In March of 1976, Dr. Willis arranged through her dad, Bill Willis, Speaker of the House, for a meeting with Lloyd Rader, then director of DHS. In attendance were Mr. Willis, Diane Willis, Teresa Stacy and me. Mr. Rader had Pauline Mayer of his staff with him. Dr. Stacy made a presentation of the PAC program and her estimate of its value in preventing repeat incidents of child abuse. Mr. Rader listened attentively, then leaned back in his chair and said, “You’re doing something that needs to be done, and we can’t do it.” He turned to Pauline Mayer, asked her if she thought such a program would qualify for title XX money. When she answered yes, he turned to us and said, “Go get incorporated, prepare a budget, and come back.”

PAC has contracted with DHS ever since. Case load has always run ahead of funding. A surprise development has been the heavy concentration of court involved clients, as we had intended and expected that the program would be one of primary prevention with mostly self-referred clients.

Services grew out of need. Children’s groups began as child care while parents attended groups. Special programs were developed when it became apparent that these children had very special needs.

The 24 hour hotline (now discontinued) developed when clients called the group leader between groups for crisis intervention and others in the community learned it was there. Telephone crisis intervention during office hours with answering machine referral to contact after office hours continues today.

The Parent Aide program and limited individual counseling developed from the needs of some clients for more intensive and comprehensive services than could be offered through groups.

Dependence by the Courts, Child Welfare, and other medical and social service agencies on PAC for client services and feedback led to consultations and court letters. The first court letter was written in pencil on a 5×8 yellow pad when a client said Judge Hunter had told her she should bring a note next day to court to prove she was attending group.

Everything was donated for the first 14 months-meeting space, snacks, professional services, even a business telephone paid for by the Foresters. During that entire time, total cash donations amounted to $250, which went mostly for craft supplies, snacks and diapers for the children, and a few printed handouts for adults.

Legal services for incorporation were donated. Child development and mental health professionals volunteered as group leaders for adults and children. Others volunteered as parent aides and children’s group workers.

PAC was based on the premise that since there will never be enough money to pay for all of the help this population needs, volunteer donations of time, goods, and services will be used whenever possible, with paid staff being used only when it is impossible or impractical to use volunteers. This made it imperative to have good systems for screening, training, and supervising staff. Volunteer recruitment was on-going. Student placements were arranged for with local colleges, universities, and technical schools.

Our first contract with the state began on July 1, 1976, and was for $44,000 for that fiscal year. It was and still is a fee for services contract with services billed for on a monthly basis, after they have been delivered. Our first check from the state was received at the end of September 1976. Over the years, other grants and contracts have been developed, though need always outstrips resources as caseloads grow and PAC is the only agency which acts on the conviction that where children are in danger, clients can’t wait.

Contracts with the state have always been for specific services. In the late ’70s and early ’80s there was a statewide component which resulted in the establishment of about 15 “mini-PACS” around the state. Most are still operating. Training, technical assistance, some funds, and a toll-free telephone services were provided. Other small grants have come from Parents Anonymous and other private as well as public sources. They have included earmarked as well as un-earmarked funds.

There have always been sexual abuse clients in PAC’s caseload. A contract with the state for specialized services for these clients has been in place since the mid ’80s. A contract with OCAP provides some parent aide services. PAC has been a United Way Agency since 1990, receiving just under 7% of its budget from this source in the past year.

More than 1,000 families received services from PAC in the last year at a unit cost (one hour of services to one client) of just over $11.00 in the parenting program and $16.00 in the sexual abuse treatment program.

These services were delivered by five full time staff (three professional, two clerical), thirty part time, and twelve plus volunteers and students. Part time staff is paid hourly to lead groups for adults and children, and as parent aides. Other donated times comes from Board members and community professionals.

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