Two Placer Health and Human Services programs receive awards for innovation

Published Nov. 10, 2020

Placer County received two awards from the California State Association of Counties, the organization announced last week, both for Health and Human Services programs. The CSAC awards spotlight the most innovative programs developed and implemented by California counties.

The Children’s System of Care division was recognized with a prestigious California Counties Innovation Award – a top honor received by only two other counties statewide – for its creative approach to securing emergency foster placements for children in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March of this year, there were increases in newly opened child welfare cases and children coming into the custody of the Children’s System of Care. While the Placer community has caring homes where children in custody may be placed, the sudden increase — coupled with anxiety and fear of being exposed to COVID-19 — threatened to overwhelm emergency, short-term placement options. In response, the county partnered with the Placer County Office of Education to directly recruit educators in the county system.

“This was an exemplary partnership that really tapped into an underutilized resource to fill an immediate, critical need,” said Twylla Abrahamson, director of the Children’s System of Care. “We’re grateful to the educators who stepped up to help during a stressful time, and thrilled that CSAC has recognized this effort as a model for other counties.”

PCOE and the Children’s System of Care worked together using letters, social media and news media to recruit educators who were already background cleared, willing to work with children and at home due to the pandemic and school closures, which expanded the pool of short-term, emergency foster placements. The Children’s System of Care also streamlined the background clearance process for emergency placement, resulting in more timely placements.  

“In a time when educators were already stretched thin, more than 75 teachers, counselors and school employees stepped up even further for their communities by showing an interest in becoming an emergency foster family,” said Placer County Superintendent of Schools Gayle Garbolino-Mojica. “This level of compassion and dedication is just one of the many reasons why Placer County is gold in education.”

The Environmental Health division was also recognized with a Challenge Award for its Food Truck Round Up program, an annual event that has improved the efficiency of and access to inspections for mobile food vendors.

Each year, Environmental Health holds mass inspection events for mobile food retailers in both Rocklin and Auburn. Because the majority of food trucks operating in Placer County are based in south Placer or even Sacramento, inspections at the Environmental Health office in Auburn represent a 30-minute, uphill drive that can be burdensome for vendors. Currently, about a third of required annual inspections are completed at the south Placer Food Truck Round Up alone, and the event has saved more than 200 hours of time. Watch a video from a past year here.

“Our team has really focused on making this a seamless, easy process for our local vendors, and this reward reflects their creativity and dedication,” said Environmental Health Director Jason Phillippe.

For detailed information on each program and a full list of other award recipients, visit the CSAC website.