027: A Detailed Response to the Sacramento Bee Article – Jenny Williamson (Courage Worldwide)
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Jenny Williamson (Courage Worldwide)
Jenny Williamson is business leader, social entrepreneur, life coach, published author, abolitionist, community volunteer and a passionate, inspirational motivation speaker. She is also the Founder and CEO of Courage Worldwide, an international, non-profit organization that builds homes for children rescued out of sex trafficking around the world. Jenny led this organization from an all-volunteer one with no income, to a multi-million dollar non-profit organization with thirty paid employees, over fifteen hundred active volunteers and two long term residential care facilities – one in Northern California and one in Tanzania, Africa.
As you listen, you’ll have the opportunity to learn:
- Jenny’s response to the Sacramento Bee article.
- Why Courage House chose to “pause” taking placements.
- The timeline of Courage Worldwide’s communication with supporters.
- Detailed appeals for each of the State violations.
- Response from the Courage Worldwide Board of Directors.
WAYS TO SUPPORT COURAGE WORLDWIDE
1. Attend their anniversary celebration in person or via livestream on Saturday, August 28, 2016.
2. Write letters to your state representatives, using your voice for these children. (Template letter coming soon.)
3. Donate. Without financial support, they won’t be able to re-write their program and re-open their doors to female survivors of sex trafficking who are under 18 years of age. Click here for upcoming fundraiser info.
4. Pray. Click here if you want to be on our prayer request list.
DAVID (0:00:00.1): Thanks for taking a few minutes to connect and chat. I just wanted to be able to give you a platform to be able to respond to the Sacramento Bee article and go detail by detail as much as you want to. I’ve read your response online. I’ve read the board of directors response. I’ve read kind of the detail back and forth on the challenges from the state. So first of all, I think I would love for people to hear why you chose to kind of put a pause on taking placements at Courage House first of all.
JENNY: The reason we put a pause on taking placements at Courage House is we have been serving this population of children for 5 years. Twenty four hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There is no holidays or vacations when you have our kids. And then you add another year with the two girls that I adopted as my daughters. So we are at six years. And if you look typically at staff or a group home or residential care, the typical longevity of staff is about 2 years when you start to see turnover. We were so fortunate. We went through 4 years with an 86% staff retention rate. And then in 2015 it fell to 44%. Our staff had burned out. One of our key leaders went out on burnout. Secondary trauma is just real. And I think that’s one of the things that I have learned that I had no idea about when we started this. The staff, it’s difficult for the staff to care for these children. So we were having weakening staff. Hiring new people and for lack of a better term slinging them in there, you have to do this 24/7 care, we prefer to have 30 days to onboard and employ. We weren’t doing that. You can start to see it in the care. It got so– our staff got so fragile if you will, that I was going out there and filling in. Now I didn’t detail that in the Sac Bee, I haven’t done that. Because if I go down that road, I have to begin to unpack for you the details of our girls trauma. So I walk this line of being misunderstood and protecting kids. And the way I’ve always done this is, what if it was my daughter? How much detail do I want the public to know? And I do have two daughters who I have adopted. How much of their struggle, how much of their pain, how much of their past do I want to share? And I will say that the 3 weeks, 4 weeks prior to our pause, we had four new girls. Four new girls in my world is difficult.
DAVID (0:03:04.3): At one time. Yeah, at one time.
JENNY: So we had had 6 girls that we went through. In fact when you came out with the documentary In Plain Sight, we had this group of amazing 6 girls that went with us for almost two years. By the time you got to that two years, I’d hand them the keys to my car. They were so apart of our family and so trusted. They transitioned to families as they should have and to schools and the next part of their life. And then you are literally starting over. But we are starting over with an exhausted staff and brand new staff. You have brand new staff, you have brand new girls, perfect storm. Our board felt it was wisdom to take a pause back. Most of the girls that we had are going to have to be placed in a higher level of care anyway. We were not going to be able to meet their needs. In the state of California we don’t have a secure facility and we are at the highest level of care. So we had already made those decision, which are already difficult decisions. So if we were in this time of pausing with girls, ensuring our staff, this was the best time in our history we felt to do that. At the very same time California has a new license that is going to become available in January, where we will finally be a mental health treatment facility, not a group home. Which is a huge difference for us, except that we still cannot be a secure facility. So there is new licensing requirements. The staff that we need to hire won’t be the same, but the state hasn’t released all those designations. So I’m not even sure what my staffing requirements are going to be. So we were faced with do we hire all new staff? Not all new, a great number of staff and one key staff. But in January they may not qualify and then we’d have to let them go and start all over again. So that didn’t seem like wisdom. So I had unpacked all this for the Sacramento Bee, they just chose not to print it all. That’s a really long response in there.
DAVID (0:05:19.2): No, it’s great.
JENNY: That’s where we were as a board. And we still, even with all the negative press, believe this is a smart decision, this is a healthy decision. This will make us stronger. Just getting feedback from all over the nation from people who work with these kids saying, “We have seen this happen time and time again. You just keep slinging in new staff and you are turning them out and you begin to reduce your results, your outcomes and your program strength,” and we don’t want to sacrifice that.
DAVID (0:05:52.3): Good, good. Thank you for that overview. That’s very helpful. I wanted to ask you some specific questions just to be able to have you help maybe somebody who reads the article. They are a supporter of [inaudible 0:06:06.8] Worldwide or maybe they are just really interested in this issue and wanting to be informed and help. There are some things that you shared that I think need a little more unpacking for the average person. One question that I wanted to ask you first of all though– and this was insinuated by the Sacramento Bee, was kind of a lack of communication perhaps on your part until you were interviewed. And I don’t know– all these questions are coming from a place of curiosity not judgment.
JENNY: If you are curious, that’s good because somebody else is too.
DAVID (0:06:46.2): Yeah, right. So would you have communicated in a different timeline if you could go back and do it? Or not? Help us understand that.
JENNY: No, everybody is armchair quarterbacking this right now. But our board still we are comfortable with the way we did things. So let me back it up for you. We made this super difficult decision to pause and having to place children. We reached out to some of our community partners across the nation. It takes a great deal of time. We had one child who had been sent 30 different placements– had 30 different placements. So when you start to make those phone calls, that’s 30 “No’s”. It’s not easy to find placements for our kids. There is not many of us in the state of California or in the nation. So that was our very first priority. Not communicating, but was finding a place for each of these children that we could believe would be good for them and work with their social workers, parents, to be able to do that. It took a great deal of time. At the same time and you and I haven’t got into the details, when we announced we were going to pause, our regulatory agency swooped and began to site us for a number of personal rights violations. We can unpack that in a minute. But it’s a very short window of time to appeal those decisions.
DAVID (0:08:13.4): And that was prior to you pausing? Or after you said?
DAVID (0:08:17.9): Really?
JENNY: Which was very misleading in the Sacramento Bee article. It said we paused due to those, but it didn’t happen that way. It happened after we made the announcement. So we identified to our governing body that we were going to take the pause. We let them know we had a key staff member who had gone on medical disability, which we have to do that. We are trying to find placement for the girls. Our regulatory body swoops in the very next day after I let them know that we are pausing and is kind of going through our underwear drawer if you will. And then cites us for regulations, personal rights violations that I only have 15 business days to respond to. So I’m trying to place girls. I’m trying to care for staff. The girls are very devastated about being moved. And then I’ve got my regulatory body and I have a very small window of time to appeal everything that they are saying we are in violation of. Which we believe if we do what they say will be unsafe. So we’ll unpack that in a minute. So those were our two primary concerns. It was hundreds and hundreds of man hours to get the appeal ready. We delivered 4 binders of documentation in boxes to our regulatory body. We intended to retain our staff. Shore them up, provide education, recruit, hire, train a new staff, get ready for the new license and open by August 15th. That was our plan. So we didn’t think there was a big announcement in that, it was just training and getting more people in and then getting kids.
DAVID (0:10:02.4): Was that just part of doing work as a non-profit organization?
JENNY: Absolutely, especially in residential care. That’s not really a big deal. But what changed everything was when our regulatory body came in, it’s a state agency that monitors–
DAVID (0:10:17.3): What’s it called by the way?
JENNY: It’s called Community Care Licensing. So we say CCL, it’s a branch of social services. They do your surprise visits. They make sure you are in compliance with your program statement. I have always been a very public proponent of Christian organizations being licensed by the state because I believe that we need the accountability because we have children. And if we have an outside agency coming in then it’s just another checks and balances to make sure children are heard. So I am for that. There’s a lot of Christians who don’t like the state being involved, but we’ve been always like, “Come in, come in and see what we do,” and a fabulous working relationship with them. That changed about 12 months ago when we went 3 months without an analyst and then we got a brand new analyst. Our new analyst just does not know anything about the CCL population, exploited, abused, sex trafficking. So we’ve been having a kind of tug of war for the last 12 months. But we’ve gotten through whatever that was.
DAVID (0:11:21.6): So there is a specific person from this agency that is assigned your organization and they work with you on a regular basis?
JENNY: Yes. Surprise visits, interviewing kids. The employees have a right to complain, the kids have a right to complain. So complaints in my world is normal, especially with highly traumatized children. My teenagers would love a 1-800 number to tell on me as a parent. So I got 6 of them at Courage House that have that right. So again I say that normal because the Sac Bee article made it sound like because we were dealing with complaints, we shut down. That’s not true. You look at the reports, these are just normal course of business in my world. So the citations or the disagreement of interpretations of regulations has never gotten to a point where we felt the children would be unsafe. But all of a sudden when we took this pause and what they’re citing us for became our perfect storm that we decided as an organization to draw a line in the sand and say, “We can’t do this.” Now this is all going on to your question of why didn’t we make a big blast? This is the why; we were unpacking so many things, are we opening are we not opening? Are we going to fight the state of California? That is a big decision. They have the power to shut you down. Where is the fight? So our board is meeting, we are having all these conversations. Our board believed we’d need legal advice as well as government affairs advice. When you are a non-profit, you don’t have money to hire those people.
DAVID (0:13:06.5): Yeah, I was going to say that costs a lot of money it sounds like to me. I’m hearing dollar signs.
JENNY: Right, so to find somebody that will do that pro-bono also takes more time. So I have a very amazing group of board members and I’d love for people to check them out on our website, who run businesses, run churches, have weathered storms. There advice and their wisdom was slow, get very good advice before we make a public statement. We knew we were creating a vacuum where people get to say whatever they want to say. But we wanted to make sure that we were going to say the right thing. We still don’t have a date that we are going to open. The state has still not appealed to us. So when they kind of alleged we told nobody, that’s not true. We’d been having one on one meetings with key people. Our key partners in the United States. Our one on one partners here. Our board members were having those conversations. I was having those conversations. But at the same time we were doing a lot of other things. So we had crafted a communication, just some key supporters and volunteers that went out to the Bee article, which they cite. But then again I don’t know when the perfect time was. We felt very comfortable with our communication. We offered 4-pages of detail of what was going on, much like I’m unpacking with you here. So the response from our supporters has been, “Don’t quit. We are here.” They got the issue of safety for our girls and our staff and if you want to unpack that we can. But there was not a pause or we didn’t tell, it was we didn’t know quite what we were doing. Were we re-opening? Are we not? And when the state came in, they took a hard line and they said, “You can not reopen unless you make all these changes to your program,” and we said, “Then we won’t re-open.” We had just gotten an attorney 5 days prior to the Bee article, so we were still getting advice from him on this appeal before we did the communication. So there is no perfect time.
DAVID (0:15:25.6): And I’ve lead organizations as well and the challenge. When all of that is swirling, you don’t want to say something before it’s time to say something. Because you end up making things seem like a bigger deal than they actually are. So yeah, I get that. A lot of stuff going on. Meanwhile you are trying to help the actual individuals who you got into this business to help. I’m looking on your website and I’ll link to this in the show notes, about the state issue. Remind me of the name of that regulatory agency again, I’m sorry.
JENNY: Community Care Licensing. We call them CCL.
DAVID (0:16:01.8): Okay, community care licensing. And then your response? We don’t have to go through each one of these because there is just a few– these are details. But I’m going to start here from the top. So one of the issues that they have indicated and I guess they have categories that they put these under, which is called personal rights. It’s the right to personal property, specifically cell phone, computer, mp3 player. Why is that an issue for you?
JENNY: It’s an issue for us because in the world of trafficking, the cell phone is the weapon. It is the loaded gun. That’s the number one issue. The number two issue is that the state of California approved our program which says, “No cell phones.” So in our mind they are citing us for what they approved. Thats our first issue. The second issue is bigger, is that our girls cannot have cell phones. Recruiting is very, very real in the world of trafficking. And all of our peers across the United State and the state of the California have dealt with recruiting. What I mean by that is a girl comes to– a teenager comes to our home. In the world of trafficking, they gain points if you will by bringing other children, other teenagers to their trafficker. They go up the ladder if you will and as they get older we see this. Our 12 year olds don’t recruit, but our 17 year olds recruit. So taking pictures of the girls. Posting them on backpage. Sending the pictures to the trafficker makes it very dangerous for our home. It makes it very dangerous for our staff. In the 5 years we have been doing this, we have had zero instances of recruiting. And we’ve had zero instances of a trafficker showing up on the property. Which is also very common with my peers in this residential care. So we believe that success if you will, it’s because we don’t have cell phones. The other thing that makes it dangerous is that one of the other personal rights is that the children have a right to confidential unmonitored phone calls. So you can imagine a child taking a cell phone, going in the back bedroom and shutting the door and being able to call anybody they want to. Which they believe this guy is their boyfriend. That is the next time we take our girls out on an outing, she knows we are going to the movies at 5 o’clock. We now have somebody telling this trafficker, this criminal–
DAVID (0:18:37.7): Pick me up.
JENNY: We can’t do that. We are to a place now, we won’t re-open if this is going to be the make or break. That’s how dangerous we and all our law enforcement partners believe. The attorney general here wrote an email to me saying the same this, “This is a weapon. It’s a loaded gun. It is dangerous. It’s dangerous for your staff. It’s dangerous for the girls.” But in California and every state across the United States our children don’t have their own bill of rights. When I say our children, I mean victims of trafficking. And that’s what I’m believing that God is going to do and use this situation. It’s now gotten a lot of media attention, even though its negative. At the state capitol, how ridiculous it is to give this child a loaded gun. So we believe that we are going to see a bill of rights carved out for this victim population to protect them when they come into the home and to protect the other children. That is my end game. We can affect the lives of a lot more children if we got this bill of rights. So that is kind of what we are staying focused on. But that issue and the issue of, we must post our state facility number which another one of those citations that we have. We refused to do that.
DAVID (0:20:00.6): I’m looking on your website and there is a number on there, what is that number? How is that different?
JENNY: That is the same number, but they are fining me $150 a day–
DAVID (0:20:09.4): If you don’t put it up there.
JENNY: Yeah, and so we waited until the kids were gone and the staff were gone and we put it up there. We were just vacillating. Do we take it down, get fined $150 a day? So we made a very difficult decision that I’m still not comfortable with of having it there, but no one is out there right now. But we can’t do that, so again our lawmakers agree with us and we are hoping to see some legislation come through where you don’t have to post that. If you have the facility number, you can find our address.
DAVID (0:20:43.2): Okay, so both those are obvious safety issues. Another one, clients are not allowed to wear or possess or own articles of clothing.
JENNY: That one I found amusing. Let’s see how do I say this about our girls, our girls are victims of trafficking but we have to remember they were prostituted. And there is a specific dress and look that goes with that. And our girls have gotten attention, positive attention from that style of dress. And so we have a dress code so when our girls go to church and to the movies, that they don’t draw unwanted attention.
DAVID (0:21:34.2): Anywhere out in public, obviously yeah.
JENNY: The state of California feels like they should have the right to choose.
DAVID (0:21:42.4): To show off their bodies as they–?
JENNY: I was told stilettos are not illegal.
DAVID (0:21:51.5): Yeah, alright.
JENNY: Yeah, I don’t know how to say that any more delicately.
DAVID (0:21:56.6): No, I think you said it way too delicately. People understand it. One of the issues that they are addressing is the lack of freedom to attend religious services. I know that– it sounds like the girls oftentimes go to a church in Elk Grove. That one of your staff members is really connected with and a church that has really supported you in the past. If a child wanted to go to another church or if they were Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or whatever, would they be allowed to? How would you make– the ability to do that, help me understand that.
JENNY: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. We’ve had about 3 citings for this issue and if you look in the fine print the others have been unsubstantiated. This is our policy–
DAVID (0:22:47.3): What do you mean unsubstantiated?
JENNY: They come and do an investigation and they find that–
DAVID (0:22:53.1): Of all three?
JENNY: Yeah, they find that we are not guilty of any violations.
DAVID (0:22:57.9): Even though a survivor has said, “Hey you won’t let me go to wherever I want to go.”
JENNY: Yes, so that is the complaint. That’s the first two complaints, not this one, we’ll get to that in a minute. So the state of California has a rule, we are not a Christian home. We can’t be in the state of California, be licenced.
DAVID (0:23:15.7): Right.
JENNY: So if a child is Buddhist, we have to take them to a temple. If they are Jewish, if they are Muslim, we have to. We’ve never been accused of that. What we’ve been written up for is Protestant girls. One wanted to go to grandma’s church in a city that is 75 miles away.
DAVID (0:23:33.0): That’s tough.
JENNY: So we said, “No.” We don’t have the staffing to do that. We have 6 girls, we don’t have six staff members to take everybody wherever they want to go. It’s impossible. So we had a child who wanted to go to a certain church in our inner city, which was very near where her trafficker was. And her social worker had asked us to keep her from that neighborhood and we did. So that was what that citing was for. So what we say is, “Our Protestant kids, either it’s the church that is closest to the physical address of the home or when a new child come in, if we’ve got 5 girls all going to the same church and they are part of the youth program, that’s where you go.” So the state wanted us to staff for 6 children to be able to go wherever they wanted. We appealed that decision. My children don’t get to do that in my home. We would have loved for volunteers. Our initial idea was that volunteers could come and take the kids to a certain church, but the state won’t let volunteers drive. So the state handcuffs us in some ways and then holds us to a higher standard that we can’t even make that work. And we can’t drop kids off at a church. But what is very interesting, this last allegation–
DAVID (0:24:57.6): So let me– on those two previous ones, were you able to appeal that and then it was unsubstantiated? Or what was the end result?
JENNY: One came back and said it was unsubstantiated. And then one came back and said it was substantiated, that we needed to work harder to let children go to the church of their choice. So we just said, “Okay–”
DAVID (0:25:19.5): And work harder, yeah.
JENNY: Yeah, check. So that’s what I’m saying, some of these allegations you just say, “Okay,” when you are written up for them. Until they get to a safety issue. So this particular religious freedom violation, we drew a line in the sand. Because we believe it a safety issue. One of our girls has a history– and both of my biological daughters do as they’ve shared in their testimonies. They have a history of ritualistic abuse, satanic ritualistic abuse. It is probably the most horrific on top of trafficking torture that I have ever heard of in my life. And our mental health professionals are seeing this becoming more common with our trafficking victims. So we have a child at Courage House, one of the 4 that I’m just telling you about, that really is above our ability to meet their needs. We did not know that this child had this history. So she actually has a death threat. We actually moved her from another state. Very scary for our staff and the girls anyway. She has a mental health, because of her trauma disorder, that is called disassociation. Where she can become a younger age of herself, six year old or a seven year old. She can be in that dissociative state and then wake up and not know where she is or recognize people and can take off running. Which this has happened and part of this decision making we did, we are literally chasing her as she is fearful. So she had this dissociative state and in that state announced that she was a satan worshipper and that she participated in those rituals that is a part of satan worship. So our professionals told her that she could not at Courage House practice that and us keep everybody safe. So the state said that we violated her personal rights. That she does have a right to worship satan.
DAVID (0:27:38.1): Now without getting into necessarily details, this isn’t like kneeling down and praying to satan. This is activities that would be–
JENNY: Harmful to humans or animals.
DAVID (0:27:48.9): Okay, she was articulating that? Things that would have been harmful to humans or animals?
DAVID (0:27:55.7): Yeah, so I’m just wanting people to know this is not like, “Hey, we are just praying on our bed,” or something. And also you indicated that you didn’t know that she had this ritualist abuse prior to her coming. I can hear someone saying, “Well, why not? Didn’t you ask her?”
JENNY: Right, that’s a great point. With our kids, they don’t remember everything for awhile. That’s why we are a long term care facility. My own daughters did not remember for a year, 18-months, 2 years, the memories started to come slowly. That’s they way the brain works to protect us. Things that are too horrible for us to remember stays– I call it the little box in our brain. But then when we get safe and then all of our basic human needs are met, they begin to have nightmares. They begin to have flashbacks and they begin to piece these things together. She had not even remembered them in a state that she was– it’s hard to explain that to people who don’t understand trauma. She only announced that in an altered state. When she had a flashback and became herself again, she didn’t even remember what she had said. So when our governing body came and interviewed her, she did not say that she wanted to be free to worship satan. She actually said the opposite. She said that she was scared and she didn’t even remember those parts, but that she did not want to participate. But we were still written up because we said, “You cannot worship satan and practice on those rituals in this home.”
DAVID (0:29:40.6): And how the state regulatory agency even know that she had said that.
JENNY: Yeah, we are not quite sure about that. It feels like a disgruntled employee or– we are not sure. The child is very upset because she felt like the state had personal information that no one should have known.
DAVID (0:30:01.7): Interesting, okay so the child didn’t even go to the state or ask to speak with someone from the state about that? Someone outside or in the home that wasn’t a child?
JENNY: Yeah, we don’t know David. Right now we have an appeal with the state of California that gets way more detail than you or I are even talking about. That our attorneys say not to speak of, but we saw this also as a safety issue, just like cellphones. We are saying that there are certain religions and religious practices that we believe should be classified as cults and not religion. There are laws in every single state that say if there is a religious practice that is harmful to animals or humans, then you can’t practice. So the state of California is telling us something different and that’s what we are appealing and fighting for. Quite honestly, as you start to unpack all these things, you can see why our staff had some resignations.
DAVID (0:31:05.7): Yeah, of course.
JENNY: You can see where our staff said, “I’m not going to work here.” And so when we again made this decision to pause, all these things that you and I are talking about are the details that we are wrestling out. How do you publically communicate this?
DAVID (0:31:23.3): The complexity. It’s so complex.
JENNY: It is so complex.
DAVID (0:31:27.4): A couple more things that I think people would be interested in hearing about. One is the lack of an administrator or– the Bee actually says that Courage House has had I guess 4 or 5 administrators since 2011 or something of that nature? Maybe you could give us the exact numbers and help us understand. What are the qualifications that someone needs to have that? Because I’m assuming that’s not just someone you hire off the street. And help us understand that role and why you’ve gone through so many.
JENNY: Well, again the Bee reported inaccurately. When you have a state license group home, you must have this group home administrator. That is the person who goes to training class, knows all the regulations, all the rights of the children, the staff. So they make sure that your program is never in violation. So if you have a group home administrator resign, you have to notify the state immediately regarding this position. You have 10 days to find one and hire one, which is impossible. Or grow your own up and train them in-house. So because of that, we decided in the very beginning to have 2 people designated as group home administrators all the time. So when the Bee reports that there has been 5, we may have had 5 people with that designation but we weren’t turning through them. I call them the ‘hit by the bus’ theory. When somebody gets hit by the bus, we still have a group home administrator. Because you can’t just grow these on trees, it’s very specific. So I don’t even remember exactly how many people, but we did like to have 2 people at all times. So for example, Melissa Herman who was our executive director, the whole entire five years she’s been there, she has had the group home administrator designation. But she didn’t do that job, she just held that license just so that we would never be out of compliance.
DAVID (0:33:33.6): She knew everything that was needed and all the crossing T’s, dotting I’s, all that stuff? But not necessarily something she is doing on a daily basis?
JENNY: Right, so then we hired somebody to do that job on a daily basis. And so it’s kind of like, why do you have– we’ve had more school teachers then we’ve had group home administrators. I don’t know they didn’t quote us for that one. I think we’ve turned through 8 school teachers, because that is a hard job.
DAVID (0:33:55.7): That sounds brutal, yeah.
JENNY: That’s the horrible job. We have to catch them running down the driveway sometimes. Then there was nothing odd or suspicious about– I don’t know why that was odd or suspicious, that adminstrator piece. We had one that went out on medical disability– we actually had 2 that went out on medical disability. One was driving and hour and a half. It’s just–
DAVID (0:34:21.0): Different things.
JENNY: Yeah. The group home administrator doesn’t work every day directly with the girls, so that job isn’t one that is highly traumatizing or burnout. Like I said, the school teacher, definitely. The line staff, definitely. But again I don’t know why that was so fascinating to the Bee.
DAVID (0:34:39.1): That’s interesting. And then one more detail, I’ve got other questions that I want to process with you. But one that you have addressed is that there would be no consequences whether it’s a point system or chores or something for not participating in different aspects of the program. Obviously you are in a situation, any group home there has got to be some sort of rules to say this is what is appropriate behaviour, this is what is appropriate participation. Whether its in therapy or group sessions or, “Hey we are going to the movies,” or whatever it might be.So it sounds like you’ve got some sort of point system to keep the girls not only accountable but I guess would also give them incentives. Is that correct?
JENNY: Right, well even bigger than thats, its trying to teach our kids that your choices have consequences; good, bad, healthy and unhealthy. We feel like that is our one of our responsibilities in this program. They’ve never had the ability to make choices because they are made for them. We want them to see, “Yeah, we have a don’t take food in your bedroom choice.” Okay, well if you choose to do that then you are going to have points deducted and then you don’t go to the waterpark on Saturday. That’s just a little small example. So we empower them. If I want to eat that in my room, I can do that. Because that is a real life choice that we have. So what the state is– if you take all of these allegations, which we’re calling unsafe, most of them including this point system, the state has already approved.
DAVID (0:36:22.1): Previously, in your program?
JENNY: Yes, they are citing us for our programs and processes and policies that they’d approved. We just think that is fundamentally wrong. And why it’s a big deal is because every time you get one of these violations it’s on a website that you can come read. So consequences almost sound like we are beating children, locking them up in a room. It’s just so big of a word, right? And what they are saying is the point system that they approved, we cannot use. The other reason why it’s so important is you’ve got staff members who are super lenient and you’ve got staff members who are super hard. And this point system leveled it out for the kids so you get consistency in punishment. Our staff is like, “Jenny, this is all we have. We don’t have any other way.”
DAVID (0:37:18.0): What else would you do? Right.
JENNY: That means they can lay around on the couch all day long. They could not participate in school, therapy, program. Our kids don’t want to be there. I think that is the one thing I need people to understand. Children are placed with us. They are not given a vote or a choice to even be at Courage House. Most of our kids are in the foster care system or they’ve been in juvenile hall. And they are made to come. So nobody is really happy in the beginning. Remember I got all new kids. So all we have is this trust system and that’s why we call it a trust system. Because we didn’t want it to be punishment. We didn’t want it to punitive. Its, “Hey, you get to make any choices you want. But upfront we are going to tell you what those consequences are.” And it’s been an effective program. Now again our staff was like, “We are not going to work here because this thing will be flipped upside down.” Our kids can be violent. Our kids have hit a staff member. Our kids fight each other, physically. Thats trauma, fight. If we don’t have this then we would have chaos at Courage House and much to the same other allegation of we don’t let them watch what they want, wear what they want, read what they want. You are right, that’s again in our program. Again the state has approved it. Our girls want to watch violent movies. They want to watch movies that glorify pimping and whoring. They want to watch vampire movies. They wanted to watch the In Plain Sight documentary, we won’t let them. Not because we are trying to control them, they are triggered by what they see. They are triggered by violence. They are triggered by– the other girls on the In Plain Sight documentary had so much therapy that they were able to talk about their pimp and their trafficker. Our girls haven’t even began that dialogue.
DAVID (0:39:23.3): It’s still their boyfriend.
JENNY: Absolutely, but it says that in our program statement and the state approved. And now they are writing us up for it. Now they are saying, “You must take all of that, re-write your entire program or you can’t open.” So we got an attorney and we said, we believe you are violating our rights. We have a very successful program, documented by mental health professionals and outcomes for the kids. And if we do these things, not only do we feel it will jeopardize the safety of the children but our outcomes with future kids.
DAVID (0:39:59.2): So the difference between the group home and the short-term residential home, is that a choice that you are making to change designation? Or is all group homes going away? Help us understand that and how the requirements are different from the state. We’ve been apart of the working group in California for the last couple of years. This new– its called the Continuum Care Reform Act in the state of California and there was a lawsuit that this was birthed out of. That child welfare needed to change and reform in California. And this is happening all across the United States. We personally think it’s a good idea. Group homes have a very bad name just like orphanages did in the old days. In fact they changed the name orphanages to group home care. That somehow sounded better. Now group home care still sounds really bad because children have been hurt there. Our really difficult kids get stuck there for years and they never have a home and a family. So the idea is that you need residential treatment facilities and then you just need families and homes. I don’t particularly agree with that, but that is what the state is doing. That train has left the station. So there will be short-term treatment centers and there will be foster homes that are funded by the state. They are saying that you could remain a type of a group home, but you won’t get state funding. I don’t know really who would do that. We couldn’t operate without the state funds. So as of January 1st, you must pick, you must kind of announce what you are doing. We are super excited the short-term residential treatment facility. I don’t like the short-term word because we are long term. But they’ve put in some policies that at every six months a mental health professional should decide if the child needs to stay longer. So we are going to work with that. So you have to re-write your programs and policies. You have to re-write your program statement. You have different hiring credentials for staff that you’ll have to meet. We do most of the things that are already required. That’s why we are excited. And we have do so much fundraising because the state funds we get now don’t meet it. But we will get additional funding when we get this new license that just about will cover our costs. So we are so excited.
DAVID (0:42:30.3): Now this is one of the things that is kind of tossed in on the Sacramento Bee article, that, “By the way they get $9100 per child, per month from the state in order to care for this child,” as if that was a bad thing. And so you have to have– yes, you are doing funding to cover other costs, but prior to this the $9100 a month did not cover the costs of that child.
JENNY: No. Thats where it’s so hard for people to understand, that’s why we are having this very detailed conversation because people don’t understand.
DAVID (0:43:05.6): That’s so much money.
JENNY: So much money?
DAVID (0:43:10.4): A person who let’s say is maybe a little less compassionate, more on the numbers side would say, “Why would you spend that much money on a kid? Put them in a group home, let them deal with their problems. Why would you have this specialized care? I don’t understand.”
JENNY: Well that’s what I say to people, “We didn’t set that rate. The state of California set that rate and the state of California is about to take that rate to almost $12,000 per child with this new license because the state does understand these kids.” So we’ve been operating, our kids cost about $12,500 a month. So that new rate is going to cover what we do because of all the therapy. So when they throw that in the paper, that doesn’t matter to me. The state knows how much it costs to care for these kids. They are upping that. So that is not here nor there, if people don’t understand that then they should take that up with the law makers who set that rate. But we need that money for these kids to care for them so that we can move them. What I help people understand because what people are beginning to understand, most of us know somebody or have had a personal relative had to go to rehab. I just had a friend of mine who had to go through that horrific– that cost her family $30,000 a month. We are at $12,500. We are way under and that is for drug and alcohol. That’s not for being raped 7 to 10 times a day. So then when people go, “Oh yeah, well I knew that.” We just have to help people understand. We don’t really have apples to apples. But the state has been doing this forever. These rates have been doing this forever. California pays higher rates than anybody else because our costs are higher. You go to other states and that might be $5000 in Texas, but that money is in other states also. The Bee just kind of slung it out there along with my salary, that was reported incorrectly, just to inflame people. It’s just sad because if you don’t understand our world and if you’ve never had a child who has been traumatized or addicted, then the numbers will kind of set you back. But if you work in our world, you understand.
DAVID (0:45:33.9): A couple of those numbers that you indicated Courage Worldwide having assets of $800,000 in 2012, $1.4 million dollars in 2015. To me I’m going well it’s a growing non-profit, you have property that you’ve purchased. That doesn’t seem like any large amount of assets. I’m assuming the majority of those assets are physical property plus money in the bank?
JENNY: Well there is not any money in the bank. We were praying that we make payroll this Friday. But there is no money in the bank. If you do the numbers where we just discuss our deficit with kids, you don’t ever know where your fundraising is going to come or not come. It’s hard to plan for that. And then we’ve had grants to be able to offset that. But we have 52 acres of property that over the past six years thankfully, yes is going up in value. So we have a house, we have a barn, we have 52 acres and then we have furniture, the horses. But we don’t have any assets that somebody socked away.
DAVID (0:46:46.9): Sure and even $1.4 million dollars in assets in the state of California is no big deal.
JENNY: Oh right, our property value is probably a $1.25 right now.
DAVID (0:46:56.3): That’s amazing. Thats awesome.
JENNY: Yeah, we don’t’ have any other big assets.
DAVID (0:46:59.7): Sure. Your salary $115,000 in 2015, is that correct? Or you said not correct?
JENNY: It’s not correct the way it’s quoted. So my salary is $90,000 and then they added the health benefits just to kind of up it. But what they didn’t report is that if you look at our 990’s for anybody that makes over $50,000 a year, in the past 5 years there were years I didn’t take any salary at all. I don’t set my salary. Our board of directors set’s my salary. And if you take the 5 years that we’ve been open, my salary averages out to probably less than $70,000. Nationwide my salary is in the 10th percentile for what we do. Our board uses that star for all of our salaries, so they have a compensation report. When you have the responsibility of 24 hour a day, 7 day a week care, there is a large liability. My board would tell you to replace me they would probably have to pay somebody $175,000 or $200,000.
DAVID (0:48:03.6): Yeah, I was going to say at least double.
JENNY: Yeah, and they know that. But again most people don’t. What’s really sad to me is we’ve had over 40 girls come through Courage House. A lot of them are over 18 now, they are on Facebook. That amount of money, the $9100 that we get from the state, my salary, that seems like all the money in the world to them.
DAVID (0:48:23.7): I wisht they would have given me some of that money. Its that kind of not understanding– oh, believe me I’ve had the conversations with people. Even $115,000 it’s just not outrageous in any way.
JENNY: No, it’s not. But the way it was reported, it was just to inflame.
DAVID (0:48:45.1): And people that are reading this outside of the state of California, even six-figures feels like such a big deal in our culture for so long I think. But in the state of California with people that are leading organizations or businesses, six-figures is really– I don’t want to sound flippant but it’s just not that big of a deal.
JENNY: You know what? It comes back to when you carry the responsibility for children 24/7 and especially in ours where there could be abuse, it’s a large responsibility. Thats where you have to compensate. I take less because I’m the founder. We are a non-profit. There are many group homes and addiction centers that are for profit these days. I remember when I found that out, I was so shocked. I called up my girlfriend who has been in rehab like 4 times going, “People make money off your addiction?” She goes, “Yeah, but if they are good at it, who cares?” I’m still like– we could have run this thing as a for profit organization using the state money. So again when people don’t understand, I’m comfortable with that but like you said when you go that word ‘six-figures’, my board has been very and I’ve been very intentional in staying under that number. And they don’t report that this year I’ll probably make $65,000 because I haven’t taken a salary for 2 and 3 months because our finances has been really tight in the transitioning girls but that doesn’t get reported.
DAVID (0:50:22.2): That somehow got left out. Another thing that I wanted to touch base on is there are a number of previous employees that the Bee spoke with. Not looking for you to address individuals but it sounds like maybe you are a tough person to work for. I’m going to tell you as an outsider, I would assume you are a tough person to work for. I actually would assume that because you are 10 out of 10 on the vision scale, 10 out of 10 on driven by a vision to make something happen in the world, 10 out of 10 these are my girls, 10 out of 10 I care about safety, growth, things are done correctly. That’s actually most founders of any non-profit organization, there are very few that people would go, “Man, I just loved hanging out with them. They are so fun to be with. They are so relaxed.”
JENNY: I’m not fun.
DAVID (0:51:27.2): They are so relaxed to be around. So talk to me, are you hard to work for? Are these people crazy? Are they just mean? Whats going on?
JENNY: Well I’m at least so happy in the Bee article that they had my one quote of, “Yes, we do fire people who do not take care of our girls or uphold the core values of the organization,” and I laugh going, of course if I was a man nobody would ask me how many people I fired. What I would say to that is, I don’t manage the home and I did not manage the former employees. Nor did I fire any of them at all. I don’t work at the house. I can’t work at the house. I have said over and over again, I can’t work with the girls on a day to day basis. So the decisions that were made–
DAVID (0:52:20.8): Because of why? Help people understand why you would say that.
JENNY: I can’t– the amount of patience for the way you just described me and I’m a southern momma. So the behaviors of our kids, needs so much grace and so much patience. You can ask my three boys, I don’t have it. I don’t. I’m not a mental health professional. I am so forward thinking. I’m so get over it, put your big girl panties on. Look at this beautiful place that you got. Let’s make some good grades and what about your future? Its really hard for me to be present in people’s pain. And highly disrespectful and a girl that’s in your face nose to nose, cursing, threatening, I am not your girl at Courage House. That is a very special, special place. My job is in the community. My job has been raising the funds. My job is being the voice of the capitol. That is where I am so driven. Now I will tell you my staff here in what we call the corporate office, they were not interviewed for that article and they’ve all been around for 7 or 8 years. So you’d have to ask them that question.
DAVID (0:53:39.3): I’ve seen their posts on Facebook, just their love for you and the passion and so forth.
JENNY: But we are all kind of the same personalities, my team here. Highly driven, self-starters and all that. I will tell you what I’ve heard repeatedly at Courage House and from our employees and I feel like this is very common in our world and it’s kind of one of the reasons for our pause; I’ve thought in the beginning when we started doing this, if you would have said to me, “This is all about the girls.” I’d be like, “Yeah, it is. It’s all about the girls.” And then you’ll have employees go, “Wow, you are so focused on the girls. What about me?” And yeah I would say, “Put your big girl panties on and big boy panties on, it is all about the girls.” We are not here to be your best friend, your mom, your pastor, your small group. You need to have that all outside force.
DAVID (0:54:34.4): Speaking to your?
JENNY: Employees that work at Courage House with them. And what I’ve come to learn is in part of this reset and rethinking is, this job is very, very difficult, working with the kids. And we have a hard time finding emotionally healthy, strong emotional staff. People are drawn to these kids who have empathy, who have the gift of mercy. I don’t have it. I can hear a child’s story and be like, it makes me fighting mad and I want to go change policy for them. I want to go build 10 more cottages for them. I want to give them a scholarship to college. I can’t walk through the journey of healing with them but it inflames me, it empowers me. I want to fight this evil. For somebody who has the gift of empathy, when the girls are yelling and screaming at you, it wears them down. We didn’t have anything for that staff member. And I still don’t know how we do it when we are caring for children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I don’t know how to. So we started to build some things in the last 6 months like sabbaticals for our staff. We started to think, “Okay, if this 2 year mark is a really big deal. What if we gave mandatory 2 week sabbatical on top of their vacations?” We started to think through, is there a therapeutic processing that we can offer the girls? Just to have a staff meeting for 2 hours is very difficult because you still got six girls out there. So how do we do that for our staff? Or is it hiring better? It sounds so bad, I don’t’ know how to say it. This is a tough one. So I think when you say, “Would I be hard to work for?”, the employees that were quoted did not work for me. And whether they were let go, that wasn’t my decision. There is an executive director that makes all those decisions. I don’t even know about some of them. We have very, very strong core values that are non-negotiable and when those are broken then people can’t stay. Its very difficult in our society and especially in California, I can’t tell you why people were let go.
DAVID (0:56:55.5): Of course, yeah. No that makes sense.
JENNY: What’s even worse is I can’t tell that kids.
DAVID (0:57:01.6): Yeah, that’s brutal.
JENNY: So you have adults that sometimes don’t make wise choices and involve the children in their drama. And sometimes a favorite staff member of a child does not necessarily mean they are a good employee. And then they have to be let go. We are the bad guy, but we are tasked to keep these kids safe and healthy and we can’t let employee behavior go. We don’t just arbitrarily fire people. There is lots of conversations. But what you get into these kids is, everybody believes they know what’s best. And a lot of us are parents. We got this thing going on in our own home, right? We are mom and dad. Can you imagine 15 employees who all have an opinion of what should be done with this child? It can get so confusing for a child.
DAVID (0:58:02.8): Sure, especially if the child is hearing those conversations almost as though mom and dad were talking. Obviously you don’t do that, but if the employee involves the child in it.
JENNY: They have to go. So that’s hard.
DAVID (0:58:19.3): Talk to me about the “parading of clients” for fundraising purposes. The photo problems? You guys are so careful about not posting photos. We didn’t even film with clients on the premises.
JENNY: But people believe we did.
DAVID (0:58:40.7): Yeah, that’s tough.
JENNY: Because we didn’t put a disclaimer.
DAVID (0:58:45.8): So talk to me about this.
JENNY: We agree. We agreed when we first started doing this at Open Home five years ago, both my daughters were over 18. Well you know my daughter Liz, she looks like she’s about 15. So any photographs the state assumed at times that those were minors on In Plain Sight. L’oreal did a video. You personally know how careful we are. We have so many media that we’ve told, “No,” a million times. In some very specialized cases we have taken photos and we didn’t realize one time a side photo of a girl got a tattoo. And that is a part of a video that L’oreal did about me. So we actually called Loreal, they edited out. We totally agree, we didn’t appeal that decision. So what former employees say, like I said I don’t work at Courage House. I’m not out there on a regular basis. But the girls love to have their photos taken and we do so many photos so that everytime a girl leaves Courage House, she gets a photo book. So when the former staff of member said everything is a photo op, their birthday parties. But nobody gets those photos. They are full on frontal photos but when they leave they get this beautiful book of memories that they get to take with them. So I felt that was twisted. We totally agree. You go through this whole juggle if you will where everybody in Africa and Cambodia and India post pictures of little children. And all of our hearts break. Then they get advertised. Sponsor this child for $75 a month. Well I have always been, you don’t see any child sponsorships from us. Our girls are already sold for money, we are not going to say, “For $12,000 a month, sponsor this kid,” with a picture. So I feel that this is so– I have just attacked this as a mom and been so careful. I just felt it was unfair. But we did, we had a picture somewhere. I think it was a Loreal video that had a tattoo. We immediately took it down. We immediately agreed with the state. It may have been in January. It may have been last year. It certainly wasn’t a reason why we shut down. We didn’t appeal that. We agree with that. It was more of an oops, somebody should have been more careful. It happens.
DAVID (1:01:17.5): Yeah, the– you guys are incredibly careful. At least online everything that I see with what you do. So you’re– I’ve seen you post and you’ve obviously said it in the Sacramento Bee article that you are tired. I’m assuming this is overwhelming. How are you caring for yourself? How are you caring for your staff during this time? What is going on in that area?
JENNY: We are. It is very exhausting. I signed up for the girls, but I didn’t even know what I was signing up for. So I also have two daughters, so I don’t have an 8-5 job. This job has never been 8-5. Around here people work 50 and 60 hours a week and then we speak on weekends on top of that. So it’s exhausting, emotionally draining. I’ve never understood what secondary trauma or burnout particularly meant, but what you realize is that to do what we do you have to keep shoving your own emotions just down, down, down. And we have this sense of urgency because every single night girls are being raped, abused, tortured and so on. It’s just hard to get out of that sense of urgency. But for the girls we did. We’ve all learned enough about trauma that we understand they are not throwing you a ticker tape parade and thanking you. We call ourselves seed planters. I have children. I have a son that is 35, he loves me so madly. When he was 15 he just didn’t. So I got a 20 year thing in my heart for girls. They are going to knock on your door one day and have 3 kids and a husband and be like, “I was at Courage House when I was 12,” and I’ll be 90. I kid the girls all the time. So you kind of signed up for that. I didn’t sign up for fundraising. I’m not a fundraiser. I didn’t even understand what that meant. To constantly have to be the responsibility of a payroll. Unless you’ve ever done it, I can’t describe it. If it’s just me, that’s one thing. But all of a sudden whether somebody gets a paycheck on Friday or not? You’ve got single moms, that’s just– I didn’t know that. My husband and I own our own business, but we are the only employees for 20 years. So that’s whether we get paid or not, that’s bad enough stress. So that’s really– I didn’t know that. And then I was unprepared for the staff’s health. A lot of our staff when they see the love and the resources that our kids get, they didn’t have that in their own life. Thats hard for them to watch what we are doing for our girls and they’ve never received that. I think I was unprepared for the brokenness that we all hide on a day to day basis. It’s easy just to go to church on Sunday and to pretend to be somebody. It’s even easy for an 8-5 job. We say this all the time, working in residential care you are this weird mix. You look like a family, but I’m giving you a job description and a salary and expectations. But we are working in a house and we hug each other and we cry and we laugh. So I was unprepared for how difficult that is to separate out and how people were looking to me to be a mom or a best friend or a sister. And I’m told that I can keep those boundaries. They are pretty easy for me just personality wise. So I was kind of unprepared for that. Then on top of that I was absolutely unprepared for the state regulatory body. It feels like you’ve got a fight on every side and there is never a time when you are not fighting. I say that is what I mean when I’m tired. It’s almost like you put out this fire and you finish it and then before you can raise your head up then there is another and there is another. Our fires aren’t professional, they are emotional. So whether you are talking about a former staff that says something about you or you are talking about a kid who runs away or makes poor choices. Or the state coming in and accusing you and it takes this long of a conversation– who wants to listen to all this, right? So yeah, it’s exhausting when all you are trying to do is help. And I said this to somebody not too long ago, I remember the first time I ever volunteered to do something in my life. It was for the PTA when my kids were little. I just never had this– what other people are going to say, “Duh,” too– was when you try to start doing something and you are planning something. It was for the school. And then all of the people who don’t do anything are throwing rocks at you, telling you how you should do it and what you are doing wrong. But they are not doing anything. So I went to the principal of the school and I quit. This isn’t worth it. She said, “If you quit, they win.” So I have that principals voice in my head on most days. If you quit, they win. So for everybody is asking me how I am, it’s not about me. This is about children. The same thing I’ve been saying from the beginning. I have an amazing family, I have an amazing husband that will take care of me. But we need people to link arms with us. We need people to stand side by side and fight this fight with us. This article and the negative publicity has really been interesting to see who were your true partners? Who were when you were– we did get a lot of publicity. We do have a lot of publicity. We’ve been very honored for the work that we do. And there is a lot of people who loved being apart of that. So it’s been very interesting and I so appreciate your phone call of people who want to believe what’s in I call a very liberal newspaper, or people who have been our true partners who are just rising up and fighting for and with us. Because it’s not about us. It’s not about me. I had one social worker who cried when I told her we were pausing. She goes, “Who is going to do this if ya’ll don’t do it? Who is going to do it?” So our plan is to stand and fight, but if the publicity from the Bee stops funding which we have heard people already call and pull their funding already. Then we won’t open and that will be really sad.
DAVID (1:08:24.7): So talk to how can people who are listening to this help and get involved? I know people will listen or watch this after this date, but on August 28th– is that Saturday? You have your anniversary celebration that will be in Elk Grove, California. For those of you who don’t know that’s just south of Sacramento. So if you are in the Bay area or Sacramento area, you can be apart of that.
JENNY: We’ll be livestreaming it too.
DAVID (1:08:55.2): Oh, you are livestreaming? Thats right, I’ve seen the emails. So you are livestreaming it, so we’ll put links to that. Thats one, they can come to that and celebrate with you. Obviously that’s a fundraiser because that’s part of your mission.
JENNY: You know what? We’ve never even done it at as a fundraiser. We usually just stop once a year and have this big celebration and worship service and people do tend to give. But it’s not typically a fundraiser. But we are going to fundraise through the end of the year. We are going to keep on going. Somebody asked me, “Why are you fundraising if there is no children in the home?” We have a home in Tanzania, Africa that we are gearing up for 12 kids. We just transitioned some. We have 4 we are getting to ready to filil up again. We would have to remove those children from home and layoff those staff. We still have to get this new license which I can’t even do the new license. I need somebody that has a masters degree to be able to write the new license. So we’ve laid off our staff down to 3– I think we have 2 full time and 2 parttime people is all the staff we’ve had to lay off. So we can’t go get this new license. We can’t re-open. We can’t pay our mortgage so people are acting like it’s a bad thing that we are fundraising. I said, “If we don’t fundraise, then we shut down and we are over. We are done,” and I can’t do that. So we’ll see how the community supports that. So we have 3 fundraisers to the end of the year that we are not ashamed that we have to do that. Because now that we don’t have girls, we have zero state funding. We are 100% dependant upon donations. Again, which is the way we started in the beginning. We’d fundraise for three years before we ever opened the home because it took that long to be able to hire and train and write the programs. So that’s going to continue this year.
DAVID (1:10:43.5): And then one of the things that I know you’ve noted is to writing state representatives about this issue. What would they say? What are they asked for? What would be helpful?
JENNY: Absolutely. We may put out a template in the weeks to come of what people can say, but this issue of the children who are victims of sex trafficking are lopped into the foster care system even if they are not a foster kid. I have to abide by those rules. So what we would like to see is a separate bill of rights for children who have been trafficked for sex. It takes into account their trauma and the behaviors that come from that trauma, especially in the beginning when they’ve had no trauma care. We would love for people to write their lawmakers and say, “This is a safety issue, this issue of a cell phone.” We need to be like a domestic violence home that doesn’t publicise their address. People ask me all the time, “How can they do it and you don’t do it?” It’s adults. Domestic violence shelters are not for children. Children we put over in child welfare. So I’m operating in this child welfare foster parent world that that’s when we can’t do it. And they think I should publically transparent because I’m taking care of kids. We agreed to that to a degree, but not to a degree that a trafficker can get in there. So we are really– and our lawmakers are really responding even though all this negative publicity. It’s just common sense that this is wrong, but our problem is there is no laws. So we are breaking laws by not giving the cell phone. So that’s why we have to pause because we need some regulatory changes and some law changes or we are in violation. We admit we are in violation. But we are not willing to risk the life of a child. I know people think that is so dramatic, right? The life of a child. Our children, multiple of our kids have had death threats on them. Multiple. This is a criminal world. Our kids have testified in court. Put guys away for hundreds of years, their sentences. So this is serious when they testify because they are a witness to a crime. So I’m exaggerating the safety. So writing to our law makers when our lawmakers, they represent us. They represent our kids. Our kids aren’t going to be writing in, so we need to write in for these kids and get them some protection that they need.
DAVID (1:13:09.9): Is that something that you could put together even today? That I could get out to our community? Isn’t that something? Just a few paragraphs that you could provide as a template just to copy and paste and to send?
JENNY: Yeah, I don’t know if it will happen today David because I’m still fighting fires around here. But within the week I think that we will absolutely have a template just saying– because it’s not just for Courage Worldwide. This doesn’t benefit us. This is children all over the state and the United States. I know our friends in Texas are fighting this. Our friends in mississippi, other states are carving out a separate bill of rights. If this child has been identified as a victim, then here are some things that we are going to walk them through until they are able to make the healthy choices that they can.
DAVID (1:14:01.4): Sure, sure. Thats good, thats great. Is there anything else that you would want to share before we conclude this conversation? Anything you wish I would have asked you? Just something that is on your heart?
JENNY: No, you did a great job. People ask me, “Are you ready to quit?” Quitting is attractive on some days. But that’s true of anything, right? People want to quit their marriages. I wanted to quit being a mom somedays. Just because you feel tired doesn’t mean you’ll quit. I believe that I’m called by God to do this or I would have quit a long time ago. Because if you are in this for the money or the awards, then you would have quit a long time ago because there is not enough. So for me I believe with all of my heart that I’m called by God to do this. That’s until He says differently, I will fight this fight. I believe, besides being just called to these kids, that I’m called to this fight. Most homes won’t fight this fight because they are scared of the state and they are scared they will be shut down. We are kind of like, we are paused. So what’s your hammer? So I hope that we can communicate well enough to the community that we are still fighting for kids even though we’ve paused. And that this fight has long range implications and we need their support and that we are just happy to have these kind of detailed conversations with anybody that wants to. But I do believe we fight and evil and I do believe that when we announced expansion, that all hell has come against us to shut us down. So I don’t believe my battle or my enemy is flesh and blood, to quote scripture here. I really don’t, I really believe I fight the same evil that traffics these children.
DAVID (1:15:51.9): Well thank you for taking time and just sharing your heart and all the details. I think it will be very helpful for people and give them a glimpse into the perplexities that you are dealing with. They are not just clear, sometimes black and white issues that can just be printed on a short article. The Sacramento Bee is out to sell newspapers and drive eyes to their website. And unfortunately it doesn’t help the greater fight in the process. But what I’m hoping and praying is that through the negative press, that it actually just spurs on this awesome conversation. Not only statewide here in California, but nationwide and will actually end up being really beneficial. Now you might have to be the tip of the spear in the process and getting some blood all over you. But in the process it’s taking grounds for lots of people. And that’s what I’m trusting. That this is– could be seen as distracting or it could be seen as very purposeful. So I’m hooping that’s the case.
JENNY: I agree, thank you David.