32 years in South Lake Tahoe Paradise

In 1988, the foster care agency, my wife worked for, offered her the opportunity to command a one person office in South Lake Tahoe. This would be a major shift in how our family would function, we moved for my wife's profession and I would assist by working in what I could find. We bought a house and moved our 1, 3, and 7 year old daughters to South Lake Tahoe. Having Studied Forestry in college and worked all over the West as a hellicopter logger in my mid twenties, and raised deep in the redwoods in Santa Cruz, California, I always wanted to live in rugged conifer country. Tahoe fit the bill! My first full time job was at the Elm Inn which was situated where the bottom of the Heavenly Gondola is today. It was an education in the hospitality industry and in life here at Tahoe. I watched first hand the making of what some characterized as the "Vail of the West", transitioning from the mom and pops hotel row to the renovated, tourist corridor. My conclusion is that this transition was a total success with a few hic-ups. Vail in the mid 90's was already having problems with finding enough hospitality labor for the businesses around town. Hummm. sound familiar? Our girls, Sophia, Tiffany, and Michelle loved Tahoe right from the start. Skiing in the winter and swimming in the Hotel pool in the summer. Throw in some short back pack excursions and their life was anything but dull. Then there was the Miss Marsha dance studio that dominated our family of daughters. I think my daughters took every dance class offered in their age category for about 17 years! Literally, it was not uncommon to have 10 dance classes going during the school year, especially when those daughters hit their teens. My wife became a dance mom and I was left to fend for myself on many a week day afternoon and evening. Many an impromptu twirl in the kitchen could be had at any time day or evening around the house! Let alone the clogging!

After four years at the Elm Inn, the foster home company my wife worked for, Kononia, decided to expand into Nevada. Koinonia came asking if I would be interested in facilitating the company program to the requirements of Nevada. The California State therapeutic foster care program and Nevada's therapeutic foster care system were very different. After translating the program language into the language of Nevada, and creating the program to meet Nevada's requirements, a State contract was awarded and I became director in charge of every aspect of the program. I started at ground zero raising up foster homes to 65 bed spaces in a little over two years. All program, staffing from case workers to mandated licensed mental health staff , foster parent recruitment and training, and ongoing satellite office development came under my direction. Therapeutic foster care program required that each child in placement was to have a mental health diagnosis. This resulted in most cases requiring weekly mental health therapy. Most had a psychiatrist for medications and were also in some specialized education program. Lets just say that I got to know probably seventy or more licensed health workers professionally and a few personally. The psychiatrist that serviced almost all the children was a close personal friend and for you who want to know, he did declare that I was in tip top mental shape! I had two licensed full time Marriage and Family therapists on staff for some six years. I make note of this due to so much emphasis placed on a public perception that mental health workers are miracle workers! They are not! Do I hold them in high esteem? Yes! Are they God? NO! If you look at the verifiable results of therapy for a client with a given mental health diagnosis, the results are not always as good as the public opinion appears to think, in my opinion. The last several years, I decided to lessen the stress and let some one else do the program directing and I did case management for up to 14 children. This is still working intensely with foster parents, education/teachers, medical, mental health, supervision, development of a case treatment plan and much time with the child. Then the parent child supervised visits took up probably a quarter of my work day and were exceptionally informative! Oh yes! Completing a seven page quarterly, in depth report, for most of the above including court; then attending the child's family court appointment made for many a long day! My assessment of family court? It is a zoo! If anybody needs wisdom in this world, it is the family court judge. When you get this many people involved in a child's life, you will automatically get much personal emotional investment! And, just like a political election, there are those who will be heartbroken because court (or election) did not go their way. When people have personal emotional investment in outcomes, is when you may find visible negative behaviors of bearing false witness/lying, hate, and anger! In 2003/4, I decided to resign from case work and open our own home, with a different agency, for therapeutic foster care. I was the stay at home parent (all this time my wife was the managing social worker in Tahoe for Koinonia). Our daughters were used to taking in a stray child of friends from time to time, and our youngest daughter was the only one at home by this time. Soon after we were licensed, we became a source for juvenile boys on probation. This lasted for a couple years at which time I went back to work and my wife left the Koinonia Foster Home agency and became the primary home parent in 2005. With 5 bed spaces, we soon were full of sibling groups. Janet liked new born babies also, so I think we went through some eight or ten babies over the next few years. We have seen it all or had children in our lives that had experienced it all! Drug babies to physical and special needs children. Rage disorders to anti social tendencies! Some bought into our home, and some quickly decided they wanted totally out of the Carter home. In 2006 I transitioned into the Best Management Practices and became certified through a small program, about four total certified in the program, by Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. I worked for Tahoe Outdoor Living, creating plans for retrofit storm water infiltration on residential homes. If the home owner bought the project, I then oversaw the installation of the project. For nine years I worked with the same crews from Tahoe Outdoor Living which were almost entirely Hispanic. I have appreciated these men far more than I can tell. They are men of character (as Martin Luther King Jr. would say), they work hard and smart. I will go to bat for these fine men that I am privileged to call friends. these are family men and I believe their children will be the successful business persons of our community of the future! i believe, if they have the moral character of their parents, which includes a healthy work ethic, they will not be denied success. (more to come)l

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