For the past 15 years, the Turlock Family Network has been a resource for families dealing with drug or alcohol addictions, behavioral problems or teen pregnancy, providing parenting training and in-home support. Despite a rising demand for services, however, the organization will close its doors at the end of the month due to lack of funding.
"We tried and tried fundraising," said TFN Board President Bob McCune. "The program has been so successful in the past months...the success of the program got ahead of the funds."
Through prenatal and parenting classes, in-home mentoring and support groups, TFN has offered moms, dads and grandparents the help they need to become better parents. Since June, the organization has provided services to 194 men, women, and children.
This isn't the first time TFN has had financial trouble. In October 2011, the organization closed its doors after 13 years due to lack of funding. TFN was able to reopen in July 2012, after community members recognized the need for a parenting resource was still high and pulled together funds.
In February 2013, the parenting resource once again found itself on the brink of closure due to lack of funding. After sending out an SOS call for funds, new private donors stepped in to save TFN. What the network really needed, however, was a grant or two to provide funding that could keep programs running — at least for a year at a time.
TFN's funding prayers were answered with a $15,000 Sierra Health Foundation grant and a $10,000 grant through a City of Turlock Community Development Block Grant. The grants helped TFN hire another case manager and purchase program supplies for its four classes — What to Expect, Breastfeeding Support, Hands-on Parenting (for mothers or primary guardians) and Family Hands (for all family members).
Along with continued service to local families in need, the grants also helped TFN further its partnerships with university students, employment assistance programs and community members looking to volunteer their time.
But the grants weren't enough to sustain the program, said TFN Director Beverly Spielman.
"We're short about $50,000 a year. This month the funds will be exhausted," said McCune.
The impending closure of TFN was met with tears by a group of five moms gathered for their weekly parenting class on Thursday.
The moms come to the class every week seeking parenting guidance from others who are willing to listen and offer support, while their children play and socialize in a nearby classroom. Thursday's class was especially meaningful as the moms shared how important Turlock Family Network has been to them.
"It's like a big family where we can leave our problems at the door and talk about anything," said Jessica Barrera.
When asked what they learned from the weekly parenting class, the moms answered:
"How to treat our kids better."
"To have more patience."
"To treat ourselves better."
"How to discipline in a positive way."
While the moms talked about how they would find support once TFN closes, the organization's employees were brought to tears reminiscing about their experiences.
"I like working with the kids and bonding with them," said Anna Juarez, who has been a childcare worker with TFN since 2012. "It's just sad to see that it's really over because it's come such a long way and grown so much."
Prenatal Coordinator Roxi Augustine said that the community is losing a valuable resource in TFN.
"We've been really blessed to be able to connect with our families," Augustine said. "We had [new moms] for 12 weeks. We were able to address their needs, their questions, their fears and connect with them as people. I think that's sorely going to be missed."
When TFN closes, six employees will be laid off and up to 24 volunteers and university interns will have to find other ways to get hands-on social services experience and serve the community.