BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A local counseling center that helps families struggling with child abuse is winding down after losing more than half its funding.
The Kern County Network for Children's board decided to end its contract with Haven Counseling Center Jan. 22 due to lack of internal controls at Haven, said Tom Corson, the network's executive director.
"It's just hard sometimes when you're a mom-and-pop organization to be as accountable as taxpayers want you to be," Corson said.
The Network for Children had given two grants to the center, one for parenting classes and another for guided visitation. Together they totalled a little more than $600,000 annually, Corson said. The grant money came from the state and federal government.
The grants made up more than half the center's budget, said Donna Severs, president of Haven Counseling Center's board of directors. The center is trying to determine the fate of its other services.
Haven Counseling, which has also gone by the name Kern Child Abuse Prevention Council, has 25 to 30 employees and works out of three locations -- on H Street, Chester Avenue and Wible Road. An "official layoff notice" has been sent to staff, according to Severs.
"I think (closure is) where we're headed but that final decision hasn't been decided yet," she said Thursday night.
Severs said the counseling center has done a good job reunifying families and helping families with child abuse problems for more than 20 years, but "we just are not very good with record-keeping."
Corson and Severs stressed that no money was misplaced, but that there were other problems.
"We heard from people, from social workers and others, that it was difficult for people to get into (the center's) classes because they couldn't afford (them)," Corson said.
Severs said different fees were applied inconsistently and that the center should not have been charging clients that were under the Network for Children program.
Corson said the contracts' termination came down to an accumulation of things, including audit findings that showed a lack of internal controls.
"We want the best outcomes for the clients and if a provider isn't meeting that expectation, then obviously we're going to find someone who can," he said.
Corson and Severs stressed that clients will be moved into other programs.
"The Network for Children and Haven Counseling are absolutely committed to make sure services are provided to these clients that we currently serve," Severs said.
Feb. 22 is the last day the center will see Network for Children clients, Severs said. The final call on the center's fate will be made about 30 to 45 days later.
Clients with questions can call the Kern County Network for Children at 636-4488, Corson said. On Friday the Network for Children put out a request for proposals for the two grants that Haven Counseling Center once held.