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Coming to terms with a painful, unexpected decision
Letter To The Editor 4-10-24
Family Support Network has had its doors closed; the longtime community resource center shuttered by Oak Valley Hospital District.

Dear Editor,

As many in our community have heard, Oak Valley Hospital District made the decision to “terminate” the existence of the Family Support Network and all eight of its employees, effective March 29, 2024. This was a complete surprise to staff, volunteers, and program participants. The department had one month to pack up supplies and memories from FSN, which has been open at corner of Oak and F Street since October 2001. As you can imagine, it was an extremely difficult time for all involved. However, the decision was made and after the initial shock, the women of the Promotoras program have moved on, already securing several alternative meeting sites so that their outreach in our community may continue. I have true admiration with how the staff members have grieved the loss and have chosen to forgive and move forward.

As co-founder and Director of the Family Support Network, from 1994 to 2018, I would like to personally thank the past OVHD Board and Hospital Administration for allowing us to follow a dream of providing services and resources locally. At the time, in the ‘90s, all those services were provided in Modesto on Hackett Road, much too far for many of our local residents. With this new venture and many ideas, we were given the go ahead. In fact, I’ll always remember what Admin told me at the time: “If you have a new idea for a program and can back it up with grant funds, then give it a shot!” What a perfect reply at the time, and with that we were able to transform a 2,700 square-foot empty space, into a fully functioning resource center with a classroom, child learning area, four separate offices, and a back room for supplies. Located two blocks from the hospital, the FSN participated in numerous community events, school registrations, and provided free programs for parents and youth. During COVID, the devoted Promotoras staff of five women continued their outreach by creating activity and learning packets, then delivered these packets to each child’s home. Being part of the Family Support Network was much more than a job. It was and still is a passion for all involved. Because FSN started more than 20 years ago, we have had the privilege of watching those young people grow into successful, happy, and healthy adults. The memories are numerous, and each one is cherished. The stories these young people share prove that reaching out to help one person or a roomful can and will always make a lifelong difference.

While grateful to OVHD for the opportunity to provide these services, I would be remiss if the ending were not discussed. Others and I are extremely disappointed in how the Board and Administration chose to manage this situation. Without any prior discussion, voiced concerns, or any warning, the eight staff members were summoned to the FSN site where they were each handed a letter that stated that as of March 29, 2024, the Family Support Network would be eliminated from the hospital and their employment would be terminated. These employees had been working for OVHD and FSN for anywhere from 16 to 24 years. Five of the employees did not have any health care benefits, vacation, or sick leave. Prior to my departure in 2018, we were instructed to cut part time employees to 29 hours per week, one hour short of qualifying for benefits. At the very least, the Board could have recommended a two-week severance pay for these resolute employees. I would think that with all the changes happening at OVHD, they would choose a more compassionate, humane way to eliminate staff. Being terminated is the same as being fired. Can you imagine working a job for 25 years that you loved and looked forward to, only to come to work one day and be told “You’re terminated.”? I heard their despair and pain that afternoon when I was informed of this unforeseen decision. The way this was handled was nothing less than cruel and unprofessional.

Although the ending was unexpected and painful, nothing will erase the 30 years of outstanding work done by the staff and employees associated with FSN. Looking through the binders of pictures, newspaper articles, thank you letters from participants and a beautiful history of the outreach, we hope to have these pieces of history available for viewing at the local library. For those who participated 20 years ago, it will be a sweet trip down memory lane. To the eight staff members who continued the dream of FSN for the past six years since my departure, sincere appreciation, and thanks. To the five Promotoras ladies who have decided to keep going, your dedication is inspiring.

Often in life, we are hit with unexpected changes that seem so wrong. However, through a strong faith and time to heal, a new beginning becomes clear. Yes, even referred to as a blessing in disguise. That is the feeling of the Promotoras ladies and those willing to help them. There is a season for everything, and I would like to personally thank the Administration that allowed this new project to grow and serve our community. For that, we will always be grateful.


Karen O’Bannon

Family Support Network 1994 – 2018