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County child abuse programs most recent victims of budget cuts
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The axe came down again at the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors agreed to cut 16 current employees and seven vacant positions from the Community Services Agency budget. A further three positions were downgraded in pay scale, and 10 contracted positions were slashed.

The reductions in force will be effective Aug. 21.

The CSA will also cut $1 million from its administrative operating costs and cut services such as clean and sober living facilities for parents involved with Child Protective Services.

The cuts come on top of last year’s efforts, when the CSA eliminated 96 positions, and a recent 5 percent salary cost reduction in April for all county employees.

“This board and the Community Services Agency and workers within the Community Services Agency recognize that the cuts that are occurring across the county are affecting people’s lives,” said County CEO Rick Robinson, “they are having an adverse impact on peoples’ lives. … It affects our ability to serve the people of Stanislaus County in every single way.”

The cutbacks will force longer response times for abuse and neglect referrals, eliminate the Differential Response Program for children age 6 to 17, and close the Families in Partnership Program, which helped keep abused and neglected children safe in their own homes.

The move will also eliminate the Team Decision Meeting process, a decision making process to determine whether children should enter foster care. Last year, 206 children avoided entering foster care through the program.

Without the program Stanislaus County’s foster care rate will likely increase, county staff said. The county currently enjoys a low 1.7 per thousand foster rate, compared to 4.5 per thousand in other Valley counties.

Victoria McDonald, a past recipient of CSA services, pleaded with supervisors to hold off on the cuts. She said she’s been off drugs for seven years and now enjoys a healthy life with her children — something she wouldn’t have had without the CSA.

“I’ve been around long enough to know that if these cuts were made, we’re going to have a lot of children in foster care,” McDonald said. “We’re going to have a lot of children who don’t go back to their parents and parents who don’t have something I have, which is the opportunity to live a clean and sober life.”

In addition to the CSA cuts, the Board of Supervisors agreed to close the county’s In-Home Supportive Services — known as Link2Care — office on Downey Avenue and move the program into the CSA facility. Link2Care Executive Director Jeffrey Lambaren will split his time between his IHSS role and a new duty as manager of the CSA Adult Services Division following the move.

Link2Care had operated from its Downey Avenue office for five years with great success, Lambaren said, but the move was necessitated by the $10 million budget gap Stanislaus County faces this year.

 “It’s with a heavy heart that I ask for this, but this is due to budgeting constraints,” Lambaren said.

The supervisors have already eliminated 88 full-time positions from the county budget this year, not including Tuesday’s cuts. All departments are expected to endure a 9 percent cut in this year’s budget, on top of an April 5 percent salary cost reduction for all county employees.

Even after the drastic cuts — which could see more than 120 employees lose their jobs — the county expects to use $10 million in reserve funds to balance this year’s budget. Next year’s cuts are expected to be even more severe.

The budget deficit has much to do with the down economy, but it’s also due to Stanislaus County’s inequitable return on state tax dollars, supervisors say.

The State of California will fail to return $7 million of General Fund tax revenue generated within the county this year. Without that $7 million, the county can’t provide $1.5 million in matching funds to secure $12.5 million in state and federal funding for CSA functions — money which would have allowed CSA to grow rather than cut back.

“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” County District 1 Supervisor Bill O’Brien said. “The way we finance government just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.