Instead of self-assessments, where’s one that’s independent?

That once controversial “reimbursement” payment (block grant) to the Family Service Agency for the BUSD’s drop-in mental health clinics is back to the council tonight for renewal.

Its proponents talk a lot about the “effectiveness” of this school program, but nothing has been included in the agenda packet that establishes this. There’s just cheerleading.


The School Based Counseling Program has been in operation since 2002 and provides a variety of counseling services to elementary, middle and high school students throughout the Burbank Unified School District (BUSD), including individual, family and group counseling. Students may be referred for counseling by teachers, counselors, administrative staff and/or through self-referral. For the 2017-2018 school year, FSA has serviced over 1,100 students to date. FSA generally services between 2,000 and 2,500 students per school year.

FSA also opened mental health and wellness centers at both Burbank High School (2016) and Burroughs High School (2017). These mental health and wellness centers serve as a way for high school age students to self-refer themselves for immediate support and guidance. The Wellness Centers have been extremely successful at both high schools. Since the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, the wellness centers have averaged about 14 visits per day, with over 640 students being served between the two schools.


This veers dangerously close to snowflake country, because how many of these student concerns are actually treatable, let alone critical or legitimate?

We have no way of knowing for sure, because there is no independent consideration of the program’s general effectiveness. Just that it’s apparently popular.


As required by the existing reimbursement agreement, FSA provides the City with an annual report at the end of each school year that includes financial information as well as qualitative and quantitative data assessing the impact of their program on students and families. The data provided on a yearly basis strongly suggests that FSA is providing a valuable and necessary service to the youth of Burbank. The School Based Counseling Program is well established within the community and the success of the program depends highly on FSA’s fundraising efforts as well as monetary contributions from the City and BUSD.


What happens is that the students, parents, or teachers fill out little forms at the beginning of the visits to document “the severity of the referring issue.” They then compete a “satisfaction” survey at the end.

Although it’s nice to know if someone’s happy with a service being provided to them, it tells us little about whether that service is necessary to begin with. There’s more than a bit of question-begging going on with such an evaluation. The people who think they need it are — surprise surprise — going to think they need it (especially if they’re getting their asses kissed by all the sudden attention).

But do they really need it — enough for going here and not somewhere else more professional, with a school referral from counselors who already exist independent of FSA — and, does it work?

Where is this annual assessment report anyway? You’d think it would be important for the council to consider, and yet it’s not included with their agenda package. Why not? All we can find are the contractual agreements.

We suspect — as we often do around here about these vague or fancy program things — that it comes off as more than a little mickey mouse.

You know what other question is being begged? Why is the BUSD not paying for the whole thing?






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6 responses to “Instead of self-assessments, where’s one that’s independent?

  1. Anonymous

    Just how much money has family services taken over the years so far. How about a competitive bid process ?

    • semichorus

      Years ago Ted McConkey proposed a realistic audit and evaluation of where all the city money was going for this group. They were getting periodic, carte blanche handouts of three- and four-hundred-thousand dollars apiece, often automatically out-competing other local funding requests.

      People went absolutely APESHIT at Ted. How DARE he question the fine work of this organization!

      Gordon would often suggest the same, and to the same aghast response from his colleagues. “Exactly what are you saying, Dr.Gordon?”

      I still want to know why the council (and public) can’t so easily view these “affectiveness” reports.

  2. G.B.

    It sounds like you are correct. This is really all about growing snow flakes who can’t deal with life. One day when they leave school oh my what will they do without a wellness center without a group of hand holding nannies who get paid to play nurse maid to them. How about ending this and letting the kids get free of the nursing bottle.

    • semichorus

      Serious problems I can see, but I suspect that most of these visits are hand-holdingly trivial.

      Kids are treated like babies these days, it’s true. I can say that because I’m left wing and have always been more sensitive to student concerns in general. But oftentimes enough can be enough.

      I also want to know what happens to these private student details about their personal lives. Are the authority figures later informed of them?

      Knowing Burbank, the answer I’m sure is “Yes.” These programs sound like a great way to spy on the kids. The potential for misuse is way too great, and Burbank’s always been an authoritarian, adversarial school district well known for pulling crap on people.

      Sorry parents, but it’s true. There have been some improvements lately, but not enough.

      • Jenn

        It really is time Semichorus to just tell kids to grow up otherwise we will have an ever growing population of dysfunctional adults.

  3. Anonymous

    After two Burroughs students committed suicide this year despite the mental health center and overabundance of counselors on campus, Family Service Agency of Burbank’s lack of effectiveness will finally be exposed. The school district wants to terminate contracts with them, but the director has friends in high places. This was apparent when not a single member of BUSD was in attendance at the meeting where FSA’s contract was renewed. Family Service takes pride in providing students a safe space where they can take mental health naps, color or use their phone. Students who were able to set an appointment with a counselor gets a get out of class FREE CARD. The counselors are known to be very selective and have their favorites so the ones who actually need it due to crisis are being denied.

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