Butte County Children’s Trust Fund
In Memory of Frank Watters
Every year, Butte County receives over 5,000 allegations of child abuse and neglect. Although only a small percentage of these referrals become ongoing cases for the county’s Children’s Services department, over 600 children are in foster care in any one given month.
These figures only begin to touch on why the Butte County Children’s Trust Fund, originally known as the Frank Watters Trust Fund after its founder, was established in 1994. The fund provides supplemental funding of services to meet the need of abused or neglected children in Butte County.
Because a flier that describes the fund is included with all Butte County property tax statements, most of the contributions to the fund come from residents who make tax-deductible donations when they pay their property taxes. Donations are accepted year-round, however.
The unique benefit of the trust fund is that it allows the county to leverage local dollars. For every trust fund dollar donated, the county is able to receive two additional state and federal child welfare dollars.
“One of the ways the Frank Watters Fund helps is that we can use it as our county match that allows us to draw down those dollars,” explained Cathi Grams, assistant director of Butte County’s Department of Employment and Social Services. “If we didn’t have those funds, that’s that many more dollars we have to go to the county and ask for county general revenue in order to match our state and federal dollars.”
From its inception through the first half of this year, 6,632 donors have contributed $187,765 for the trust fund, which has attracted approximately $375,000 in additional state and federal money.
The trust fund monies are combined with other child welfare dollars to provide an array of services to children and families in Butte County. These services include parenting classes, in-home parenting services, counseling and public-health nurses who provide medical case management for children in foster care.
An increase in donations to the trust fund last year was directly responsible for expanding the Parent TalkLine, a hotline service for parents needing information, from a weekdays-only schedule to a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week schedule. The service is operated by the Parent Education Network.
Parents need to have support in times of crisis, and the Parent TalkLine helps fill that gap. These crisis situations often do not occur at convenient times. When the Parent TalkLine is answered, a trained family support worker is available to listen to parents, help provide information and put parents in touch with additional resources.
Grams says the positive results of the programs supported by the Butte County Children’s Trust are readily apparent. Although 600 children per month are in foster care, this represents an approximate 30 percent decrease from over 1,000 children in out-of-home placement several years ago. Of those 600 children, nearly half are in the homes of relatives. This success is due in part to the ability to provide intervention and treatment services to families.
The Children’s Services Coordinating Council and the Child Abuse Prevention Council will hold its annual Celebrate the Child Candlelight Procession tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 30) at 5:30 p.m. to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect. The procession will gather at the Children’s Park at W. First Street and The Esplanade and walk to the Chico City Plaza in time for the annual tree lighting ceremony. The organizations will have a booth at the event as well for anyone seeking additional information.