Sonoma County Children’s Village ends its run
The board of the Sonoma County Children’s Village, a nonprofit agency that introduced an innovative model for housing the region’s foster children in a nurturing, homelike environment, has dissolved its organization, ending a more than 20-year bid to champion the needs of youngsters whose own families weren’t able to meet them.
The board of directors closed the Children’s Village in October 2015, following a state policy shift intended to place more children with foster families, steering them away from group settings.
After several years of working to meet the needs of foster children in alternative ways — funding orthodontics, tutoring, specialized therapy, even gymnastics and driver’s training — the agency’s board has decided its assets would go farthest by entrusting them to another organization with values that match, board president Jackie Crook said.
The Children’s Village is transferring $2.5 million remaining in its coffers to TLC Child & Family Services, a more than 40-year-old Sebastopol nonprofit that has quietly educated and served more than 600 foster children annually for decades.
“We feel very grateful and excited to be passing on our legacy and resources to TLC,” Jackie Crook, Children’s Village board president, said in an announcement of the transition. “As an all-volunteer-run organization, we had come to another crossroad. We decided that, rather than spending our precious funds on building out our own organizational capacity, we would dissolve and gift our resources to the right nonprofit that has all the necessary structures in place.”
As a symbol of the changeover, the Children’s Village already has conveyed to TLC’s headquarters in rural Sebastopol a stone carved with the name Georgia Moses, the 12-year-old girl whose tragic death inspired the creation of the nonprofit.
Georgia Lee Moses was living with her mother and a younger sister in Santa Rosa when she disappeared in 1997. She was found slain nine days later near a Highway 101 offramp in Petaluma.
Georgia, it was later learned, had for years kept her family going essentially on her own, in the face of her mother’s increasingly acute mental illness, though the preteen was often at loose ends herself. She would sometimes be away from home and school for days on end, as she was when she disappeared — with no one to report her missing. Nine days after someone last saw her standing with a man outside his car, her nude remains were found near the offramp. She had been strangled in a still-unsolved homicide.
Troubled community members, including a long-time foster care coordinator and children’s advocate named Lia Rowley, marshaled their grief and anger around an ambitious idea involving a new kind of community for foster children that would build the nurturing environment normally provided by an extended family.
A key goal was keeping foster siblings together.
The group opened a cluster of homes and apartments in 2006 off Kawana Terrace near Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Preserve, in which staff members and surrogate “grandparents” resided on the premises, and community volunteers helped with tutoring, maintenance and other help.
But after serving 84 children, the village closed in 2015, unable to sustain a high enough census to stay afloat after shifting foster policies shortened the time children might stay in group homes.