CARING for Children, Inc. began out of a study group at Central United Methodist Church. With the cooperation of Buncombe County Department of Social Services, CARING conducted a study of needs of children and families in Buncombe County over a 36-day period in January and February of 1975. Conclusions of this study indicated a need for shelter care for children in crisis in Buncombe County. Our Place, an emergency shelter service for children, opened in July of 1975 to provide care for these children. It was designed to provide temporary care to help children through the crisis period and give the social workers time to develop a good long-term placement for an individual child.
A need was seen not only for temporary shelter care, but also for longer-term care for difficult-to-place teenagers. After study, planning, and the assistance of the United Methodist Children’s Home in Winston-Salem, a program was designed to serve difficult to place teenagers in the Western North Carolina. The Children’s Home provided a substantial grant to help fund the program and furnished the expertise and the general program design. In July of 1978, Serendipity was opened to its first youth.
At the same time as the Serendipity home was being developed, a youth advocacy group was responding to different needs in the community. The Youth Services Action Group of Asheville and Buncombe County saw a need to serve youth that were status offenders (runaways, truants, and undisciplined youth) in the community. At the time, chronic status offenders were routinely placed in training schools. With the passage of PL 19142, these youth could no longer be served in training schools. Local community-based services were needed to serve the youth that were headed for serious trouble. Resulting from Y.S.A.G.’s and the Junior League’s efforts, the Buncombe County Group Home was opened in September of 1977.
In 1979, CARING was approached to consider a merger with the Buncombe County Group Home (Counterpoint). Discussions between the two boards were held, which resulted in a merger in the spring of 1979. The resulting agency, which continued to operate under the name CARING for Children, Inc., continued to operate the three facilities: Our Place, Counterpoint, and Serendipity. The result of the merger was the consolidation of small residential group care under one agency. Both organizations brought different approaches, philosophies, and strengths to the merger, which resulted in an agency that could serve diverse needs of children through different methods. CARING brought a history of providing quality care to children, a strong belief in providing an alternative to children in crisis, and active lay board participation in programmatic concerns. Buncombe County Group Home (Counterpoint) brought a treatment oriented model, a commitment to serve juveniles involved with the court system, and a board of primarily youth-serving professionals.
In 1982, CARING was asked by Blue Ridge Center for Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse to operate a facility for Willie M. youth (emotionally disturbed youth with aggressive behavior). After much serious consideration, a proposal was passed by the board of CARING to operate such a facility. After several aborted attempts to find a facility for this program, Blue Ridge Center decided to build. The building was finally completed in June of 1984, and in July the first Willie M. youth was placed at WindeMere.
In December of 1985, a study was conducted about how Serendipity could be more effective in the community and whether it was feasible or desirable to keep it operating. A recommendation was made to the Board of CARING to change the program at Serendipity to an Independent Living Program for older adolescents. This proposal was accepted by the Board of Directors, and the program was developed and given a new name – Cornerstone. Cornerstone admitted its first youth in June of 1986. The program serves older adolescents (15 to 19) who need skills and assistance in becoming self-sufficient.
In the spring of 1986, CARING was approached by Bringing It All Back Home (BIABH) Study Center about becoming the licensing body for its Professional Parenting Program. BIABH operates as a study center of Appalachian State University and is considered a state agency. Their specialized foster care program (Professional Parenting) cannot be licensed by the State because the sate cannot license itself. Therefore, Professional Parenting needed a private, non-profit board to serve as their governing and licensing body. The CARING for Children Board of Directors considered this proposal and made a decision to affiliate with Professional Parenting as their licensing agency in June of 1986.
Also in the spring of 1986, during the re-negotiations of the WindeMere contract with Blue Ridge Center, the CARING board made a decision not to renew the contract to operate of WindeMere. This decision was made for a variety of program and operational reasons, and CARING’s involvement with WindeMere was completed in early June of 1986.
After 10 years of renting the Counterpoint facility on Montford Avenue from Highland Hospital, it was necessary to find a new home for Counterpoint due to the hospital’s expansion. Many long hours of searching “for the right home” culminated in the purchase of the property at 40 Blue Ridge Avenue, Asheville in the fall of 1987. Renovation of the building took place and, in March of 1988, Counterpoint moved into its new home. The purchase of the property at 40 Blue Ridge Avenue meant CARING had achieved its goal to own all three group home facilities.
In 1991, with the help of a generous grant from the Janirve Foundation, a major addition was completed on the Counterpoint home, which consisted of adding a complete living area for the Teaching-Parents and their family. This addition has made Counterpoint a very desirable home in which to live and work. The physical plant at Counterpoint, along with its Asheville location, helps recruit and retain quality professional Teaching-Parents to staff the Counterpoint program.
On July 1, 1994, CARING for Children developed a new service for the children and families of Buncombe County. Called the Alternative to Detention program (ATD), CARING reserved one the spaces in Counterpoint or Cornerstone for a youth whom otherwise might have been placed in secure detention. The ATD program was a short-term program, usually 14 days or less. This program helped keep a number of youth from unnecessarily facing the trauma of secure detention.
On September 1, 1994, the Boards of CARING for Children, Inc. and the Buncombe Shelter, Inc., entered into a contract whereby CARING for Children would begin managing the Trinity Place Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter. Trinity Place was, from the start, a wonderful fit with the CARING family. Trinity Place is often the point of entry for children and families into the system. The addition of Trinity Place added one more piece to CARING’s continuum of care. The children and families in crisis served by Trinity Place now have much easier access to the rest of CARING’s programs.
In December 1995, the ATD program moved from Counterpoint and Cornerstone to a foster care home. This move has been a huge success. Housing the program in foster care makes it much more flexible. Moreover, moving the program to foster care has removed the possibility of overburdening the long-term homes.
On July 1, 1996, the Boards of Buncombe Shelter, Inc., and CARING for Children, Inc., formally merged. The resulting agency was stronger, more diverse, and more able to help meet the challenges facing children and families in Buncombe County and Western North Carolina.
In 1997, and with the help of a grant from The Duke Endowment, CARING for Children implemented “Project Home Base.” Project Home Base was a pilot program that allows a family preservation specialist to work with children and families in their homes after children return home from a stay in residential care. The goal is to help families avoid repeating the counterproductive behaviors that led to the child’s stay in a CARING home.
In 1998, CARING began a collaborative effort with the Junior League of Asheville to develop the Angels Watch program. Angels Watch is a short-term foster care program that provides care for children, age 0-6, whose families are in some type of crisis. While CARING had been a licensed foster care agency for several years and had used foster parents in the Alternative to Detention Program, Angels Watch was CARING’S first in-house foster care program. That summer CARING implemented an Outdoor Adventure Program. This program provided youth from CARING’s residential and foster care programs the opportunity to participate in outdoor adventure and team building activities that might include team problem solving exercises, hiking, indoor or outdoor climbing, sailing, and flat water kayaking.
In fall of 1999, CARING expanded two programs. The Alternate to Detention (ATD) program increased from one bed to two. This expansion allowed CARING to provide services for more children in a foster care home environment as an alternative to training school or detention. Project Home Base added another family preservation worker to serve Trinity Place and Counterpoint youth, both to prevent placement and to facilitate early reunification with families.
In early 2001, CARING was asked by the Board of Directors of the Buncombe County Day Reporting Center to consider taking over its program, effective July, 2001. This program had been funded by the two local school districts, a grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission, and funds from the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The Crime Commission grant funds had been depleted, and DJJ dollars were at risk as well. After careful consideration of all factors involved and significant program development, the CARING Board of Directors voted to bring the Day Reporting Center under CARING’s umbrella. This decision was a significant one, since the program would be under-funded until it could be licensed by the Division of Facility Services and Medicaid dollars could be tapped – a period of approximately six months to one year. During this time, the program was licensed, and administration continued the work to have the new program, CrossRoads Day Treatment Center, ready to accept Medicaid clients. CARING hired a Clinical Coordinator and, finally, in July 2002, the first Medicaid billing was submitted to the Blue Ridge Mental Health Center for clients receiving services at the CrossRoads Day Treatment Center.
In 2000, Cornerstone was awarded a Federal Transitional Living Program grant. In order to better serve the Cornerstone girls, a decision was made to relocate Cornerstone into the facility housing Counterpoint (40 Blue Ridge Avenue) and to move Counterpoint to the facility housing Cornerstone (22 Brucemont Circle). Since the 40 Blue Ridge Avenue facility had an attached three-bedroom apartment, Cornerstone could be expanded to a two-stage program where the girls could start in the “group living” section and “graduate” to the semi supervised apartment.
At the same time, Counterpoint was transitioning from a DSS licensed program to a Level III Medicaid program. To accommodate these changes, 1) the 22 Brucemont facility had to be upgraded to the standards for the Division of Facility Services licensure; 2) much renovation were necessary at the 40 Blue Ridge address; and, 3) temporary offices at the 40 Blue Ridge address had to be moved to the Administrative offices at 50 Reddick Road. So, in the spring of 2002, CARING began the upgrade on these three facilities, which was completed in the fall of that year. Counterpoint moved to 22 Brucemont; Cornerstone moved to 40 Blue Ridge; and, the offices were moved to 50 Reddick Road.
By the end of 2001, Angels Watch had expanded to 15 foster families. In fact, the program was so successful, all beds were full and funds for stipends in FY 2001-2002 were almost depleted. Many referrals were coming from the Department of Social Services (DSS) in hopes of preventing young children from being taken into their custody. CARING began negotiating with DSS to expand the Angels Watch program. The new program would serve children who were already in DSS custody. Foster care placement fees for these children would be available, which allows foundation and grant funds to subsidize children in the program whose parents are going through crisis and need temporary placement for their children. Angels Watch has become a much-needed resource in Buncombe County.
In December 2002, Counterpoint was accredited as a Medicaid program and was licensed by the Division of Facility Services. With an average length of stay at Counterpoint between four to six months, and with youth already in the program not eligible for Medicaid reimbursement, it took time to begin accepting Medicaid reimbursement. Finally, in July 2003, CARING for Children submitted the first Medicaid billing for youth in care at Counterpoint.
In the spring of 2003, CARING for Children applied for and was awarded a three-year grant from the Melvin R. Lane Foundation to recruit and hire a Director of Fundraising and Marketing. In September 1, 2003, the new Director and a half-time administrative staff began work to increase funding and to make CARING more visible in the community.
Also, in the spring of 2003, CARING applied for and was awarded a contract from the Buncombe County Department of Social Services to provide Intensive Family Preservation Services for families at imminent risk of having their children taken into DSS custody. Staff were hired and the program began September 1, 2003.
In spring of 2003, CARING was asked to provide administrative oversight for the Respite Scholarship Program funded by United Way and a grant from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The respite scholarship program provides money for families with children who are severely emotionally disturbed to pay respite providers to care for these children. The funds are administered through the Children’s Collaborative of Western North Carolina.
In late summer of 2003, one of the CARING founders, Lucretia Thurman Weiler, passed away after a long illness. Her husband (also a founder) and daughter initiated a campaign to raise money for The Lucretia T. Weiler Endowment, with an immediate goal of $300,000, to ensure the perpetuity of CARING for Children. At this writing, the Endowment has been created and the goal is almost met. Lucretia T. Weiler, founder of CARING for Children, will be remembered for years to come.
In March 2004, the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (DJJDP) terminated funding for the ATD program and redirected it to other community-based programs. CARING for Children discontinued the program. The CrossRoads Day Treatment Program lost its lease and moved to another facility in the Fall, 2004. The new facility needed renovations to be licensed by the Division of Facility Services (DFS). As a result, CARING could no longer bill Medicaid for Day Treatment Services. The Board decided to continue operating the CrossRoads program and worked diligently with CARING Administration, the Architect, and the City of Asheville’s Planning, Zoning, Fire, and Health Departments to complete the required renovations. Nine months after moving the program, CrossRoads obtained the DFS license. Continued operation of the CrossRoads program depleted CARING’s reserve funds and the Board and Administration faces the challenge of replenishing those reserves.
In August 2004, CARING for Children submitted their agency self-study to be accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA). The self-study document was the culmination of several years of work by the Board and staff at CARING. The on-site peer review occurred in early November 2004. In February 2005, CARING received the Preliminary Accreditation Report (PAR) and submitted their response to the Council’s suggestions. On April 28, 2005, the Council notified CARING administration that the agency would be accredited upon the Council’s receipt of a copy of the current license for CrossRoads, which will occur on or before July 1, 2005.
In April 2005, CARING applied for a modification of the agency’s foster care license from the Department of Social Services (DSS) to include Therapeutic Foster Care. The license was received in May, and CARING is moving forward with licensing Therapeutic Foster Parents to provide services for children who could be better served in a therapeutic foster home as an alternative to group care.
In April 2006, the Department of Social Services in Buncombe County asked CARING for Children to serve their children in foster care instead of the Our Place Emergency Shelter. So, beginning July 2006, Our Place Emergency Shelter officially closed and the PERCS Program (Proactive Enhanced Response Crisis Services) was born. Also in July 2006, CARING initiated a job coach component of the CrossRoads Day Treatment Program and began a Latino Mentoring program in response to a grant request from Buncombe County Juvenile Justice and Crime Prevention Council for a Gang Prevention program.
In July 2007, CARING opened the Family Connections Parent Training program, based on the Nurturing Parenting curriculum by Stephen Bavelok. In March 2008, the CrossRoads program moved to the Central United Methodist Church Haywood Street Campus.
In response to challenging economic times in North Carolina, CARING for Children had to close the Latino Mentoring program in December, 2008. The Counterpoint Level III group home closed in June, 2009. The Board of Directors, administration, and staff are working together to ensure that CARING for Children continues its Mission and unique services for children and families by examining program efficiency, effectiveness, and outcome measures and adapting its programs to adjust to the needs of families in Buncombe County.
On September 1, 2014 CARING for Children announced their affiliation with Eckerd – a national leader in child welfare and juvenile justice programs. Eckerd, driven by its mission to provide and share solutions that promote the well-being of children and families, provides more than 35 programs and services in seven states and is an experienced partner with helping states manage and transform public systems of care. As a program of Eckerd, CARING for Children will continue to operate as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with its own Board of Directors, operating budget and leadership focused on providing residential group home care, specialized foster care, mental health counseling and a variety of family respite and support services to Western North Carolina children and families in crisis.
Partnering to meet demand! Change is nothing new to the staff and leadership of CARING for Children. After four decades of service, CARING is still innovating to meet the growing need for quality services for families and children in crisis. CARING now serves over 1,100 children and families each year. CARING’s affiliation with Eckerd allows the organization to continue to scale its programs and to set a new standard of care for hurting children.