Valley of the Moon Children's Foundation
Judge Arnold Rosenfeld formed the Valley of the Moon Foundation in 1994. It’s mission is “in partnership with the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home and the Redwood Children’s Center to positively impact the present and future lives of the abused, abandoned, and neglected children in Sonoma County and to assure the children we serve positive opportunities to aid them to become productive, equal members of the community”. The initial intent of the Foundation was to create a discretionary fund for children living at the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home. This fund was to be used to take children on fieldtrips, provide birthday and Christmas presents, and other extras that benefit the children. However, it soon became evident to the Foundation as well as county officials that the home was inadequate for the growing population of abused, abandoned, and neglected children.
With the realization that the greatest need was a new home, the Foundation created a unique public-private partnership with the County of Sonoma Human Services Department and took on the huge task of a capital campaign to help raise funds to build a new facility. Through their efforts in excess of $11 million has been raised which helped make the new home a reality. On June 1, 2005 the children moved into the housing portion of the new facility. Additionally, the Foundation has increased public awareness of child abuse and neglect in Sonoma County.
As Sonoma County’s only emergency shelter for children who have been removed due to allegations of abuse, abandonment, or neglect, the Children’s Home had been built in 1975 and no longer met the needs of the children and did not meet state group home licensing standards. Besides being too small, the facility did not allow for separation of children based on age or developmental needs. It was a loud and chaotic building that made it difficult for children to find quiet spaces to be alone or have private conversations with counselors or other residents. Oftentimes the children were put up on roll away beds, sleeping in the living room and craft rooms because there was no room in the girls or boys dorm areas.
As a private board made up solely of volunteers the Foundation took on the unique role of partnering with a public entity to help raise funds to build the new Children’s Home. The Foundation Board, without the support of paid staff, worked closely with the Sonoma County Human Services Department, the County Architects Office, the Board of Supervisors to begin the long and arduous process of raising funds, and planning for the construction of the facility. Initial planning for the new facility estimated total costs at around $8 million. State Licensing requirements and population growth projections for Sonoma County forced county officials and the Foundation to revise the project plans. When it became apparent that rising building costs doubled the expense of constructing the new Home, rather than give up, the Foundation increased their commitment to raise additional funds.
The Foundation is in the process of raising $3 million for the completion of the project which includes a second building to house a toddler/infant area, medical and dental offices, visiting area, and the Redwood Children’s Center. In addition, they have raised funds to help furnish and equip the new buildings.
Despite already exceeded their initial goal of raising discretionary funds for the Children’s Home by taking on the capital campaign, the Valley of the Moon Children’s Foundation sought other ways to support the Home and raise awareness of abused, abandoned, and neglected children in Sonoma County. When the Foundation learned that the food service practice of the old Home would continue at the new Home they looked for a way to allow for food to be made on site so that it would be warm, fresh, and inviting. The practice at the old Home was that food was prepared and delivered to the Home by Juvenile Hall. The Foundation’s solution was to enter into an agreement with the County to offset the cost of hiring a new full-time chef for the Home. With a full-time chef mealtime at the Home has been transformed. The chef works closely with local farmers to bring in fresh produce. By working closely with staff, the chef has created opportunities for children to learn healthy eat habits, and learn new skills by helping to plan menus for the Home.
At the time of the Foundations inception, few people in Sonoma County were aware of the existence of the Children’s Home and its purpose. Through advocacy and fundraising efforts, the Foundation worked closely with the County to increase the profile of the Home and inform the public of its important purpose in the community. Board members gave numerous interviews to local radio and newspapers; presentations to churches, businesses, and civic organizations; and held fundraising events such as The Pixar Film premiere’s of “Toy Story 2” in 1999 and “Monsters, Inc. in 2001. These efforts not only helped the capital campaign but also became opportunities to educate participants on the issues facing children living at the Children’s Home. One of the unexpected results of the Foundation’s public awareness efforts was that the children living at the home no longer perceived the home as a bad place or something they were embarrassed to talk about. Once the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home was no longer a secret, and the community began to embrace the Children’s Home, the children began to see it as a positive place.
As public awareness increased so did the interest of individuals, businesses, churches, and other civic organizations to find a way to become involved with the Children’s Home. Businesses held toy drives and raised funds to provide gifts for children at the holidays and on birthdays. Civic organizations hosted parties and fieldtrips for the children. These efforts by the community provided an important component to the Children’s Home. They reminded the children to be children again by having fun, learning new things, and giving them something to look forward to. These little extras help to reduce their stress and anxiety by taking their minds off the difficult circumstances of their current lives.
Once the capital campaign has been completed the Foundation has plans to expand its support for children through four key focus areas:
- continued supplemental support for the children at Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.
- Support for emancipated children including education, housing and employment guidance
- Support for children in foster care and foster parents
- Community child abuse prevention.
Through tireless volunteer hours the Valley of the Moon Foundation has helped to create a safe haven for children. What they have done is not just help build a building, but raised awareness of the issues that affect abused, neglected, and abandoned children in our community so that support from individuals, businesses, and organizations is on-going. Their work is a reminder that even in wealthy communities such as Sonoma County, we must come together to meet the needs of those who can’t help themselves.