The executive director of Families and Communities Together will no longer have a position after July 1.
Joy Mark, FACT’s executive director, said that after learning the grant request was turned down by the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund for 2017-18, she believes this change in funding could offer new and positive opportunities.
“FACT is in transition, and that’s an exciting time to evaluate the organization’s mission, vision and goals—mapping out new directions to better serve the county,” she said.
But Mark said it’s also a stressful time because the logistical function has to change quickly and significantly with the funding shortfall.
“The (FACT) board is feeling the pressure, making it hard to feel hopeful,” she said. “But I believe this is the fire through which FACT will see a resurgence in its effectiveness.”
Todd Heitschmidt, FACT board chairman, said the board is disappointed the grant requests were not funded this grant cycle.
“Given the state budget concerns, we were not totally shocked of the decisions given that previous requests have been reduced in recent years,” he said. “We are waiting to receive the scoring matrix to see if there is anything we can do differently in future applications.”
Linda Ogden, a former executive director of FACT, said to Heitschmidt: “It was a perfect storm of events that led to these grants not being awarded to FACT.”
Anyone who has been involved in the grant process understands that generally grants aren’t awarded on an ongoing basis for the same purposes, Heitschmidt said.
“FACT has received grant funding for early childhood development for a number of years, and for other projects for which we are very grateful,” he said. “As we look forward to applying for grant funding in the future, the board will also be looking to find other permanent sources of funding to reduce the reliance on temporary, year-to-year grant funding.”
For the towns within Marion County, Heitschmidt said it will be a challenge to find $150,000 to $175,000 to replace the grants that were not funded.
“We will be prioritizing the most critical needs our previous grant funding covered, and will be searching for funding to cover those immediate needs as quickly as possible,” he said.
Mark said that while FACT doesn’t have specific feedback, the context of the denial is multilayered.
“When FACT received the grant for the first time in 2009, grant administration and evaluation was relatively simple. In 2014, during Ashlee Gann’s tenure, the Cabinet significantly increased the accountability on the early childhood block grants and has continued to do so over the intervening years,” she said.
During the past 18 months, FACT received its final amount of $136,137 for the 2016 preschool scholarships, three professional development programs for in-home childcare providers, a childcare site-visiting literacy program, a county family resource directory and a social-emotional consultation for county preschools.
“The majority of the 18 months I have been with FACT, board membership has been below the minimum number, even when the by-laws were changed to lower the numbers (of membership),” Mark said.
The organization, she added, will need to redefine its service to the county by keeping levels of work parallel with its capacities to be effective.
In addition, FACT will need help with vision and mission review and strategic and planning. Those who have these attributes would provide valuable information, she said.
“FACT’s programs have been designed in a way to serve both at-risk children and secure children and families as an ideological stance that at-risk children benefit most when paired with secure peers,” Mark said. “This does not align with the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund service model.”
Mark said that FACT no longer has funding from outside the county for substance abuse prevention efforts. Some of the highlights of outside prevention funding from its history include federal funding to include Drug Free Communities five-year and STOP four-year grants.
“State funding was a 10-month planning grant in preparation for a three-year implementation grant,” she said. “Unfortunately, FACT, along with eight of the 17 other planning grantees did not receive further funding.”
One way Marion County residents can help is to get involved, Mark said.
“FACT needs fresh voices, particularly young voices, voices that ask hard questions about needs and the state of current services in the county, voices that speak to others, like-minded or not, to break down barriers, assumptions and the status quo,” she said.
In addition, Mark said the group needs local-level data. Grants and other public and private funding sources require hard data describing need, not anecdotal evidence only, although it’s a good qualitative supplement.
““No program, no public policy, no amount of money can replicate the results of a community whose citizens care for each other, who are willing to take risks with each other to see a common good attained,” Mark added.
Heitschmidt said the public can also help by donating to FACT, which is a charitable 501(c)(3) organization under the IRS tax code.
“Just as many of our Marion County communities have been successful in raising permanent funds for their foundations, donations and contributions through wills, land and stock gifts, are an excellent way for FACT to establish permanent funding for this critical program,” he said.
“We are excited to expand our message county wide in an effort to inform the public on our successes, and to reach a more permanent form of funding for these programs.”