La Casa De Las Madres
Rating: 4.71 stars 68 68 reviews
1663 Mission St Ste 225 San Francisco CA 94103 USA
The mission of La Casa de las Madres is to respond to calls for help from domestic violence victims, of all ages, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We give survivors the tools to transform their lives. We seek to prevent future violence by educating the community and by redefining public perceptions about domestic violence.
Our success is two-tiered. Each time a contact is made, educational presentation given, the crisis line rings or someone requests counseling we are successful. There are many choices to be made by a person seeking to address or escape violence in his or her life. Each step is invaluable in what is usually an incremental move toward safety. We measure this impact by tracking services and participants. In FY 2009-10, La Casa de las Madres’ services were utilized as follows: • 4,295 callers received crisis counseling, resources and referrals through our statewide, toll-free Adult and Teen Crisis Lines; • 893 domestic violence victims accepted Domestic Violence Response Team crisis or follow-up assistance; -Among them, 136 accessed DVRT legal assistance in pursuing a restraining order; • 219 women and 206 children received emergency shelter and support services; • 474 women and families received practical and emotional support through the Drop-In Counseling Center; -Among them, 46 families received specific assistance with custody and visitation; • 212 adolescents participated in individual and group activities of the Teen Program; • the MEI Case Management Program provided housing stability, community-building and emotional support services to 177 residents of the Mary Elizabeth Inn and Verona Hotel; • the Safe Housing Project worked with staff and residents of 75 Bay Area supportive housing sites and provided direct intervention to resident women and families; and • 430 community education and outreach activities educating 7,907 teens and adults and reaching more than 49,000 community members were undertaken. We also strive to offer services wherein victims can immediately access needed support, be safe, and build a stable foundation from which to start or continue an independent life free from abuse. So we are successful when we have provided a timely, relevant response; alleviated crisis; and facilitated improved quality of life through an increased sense of safety, prevention of homelessness, and encouragement of thriving. To determine if we are reaching milestones and benchmarks specific to each program, we solicit feedback in periodic surveys and exit interviews about experiences with services, what has worked or is not working. A sample of results include: 94% of women exited emergency shelter with an increased sense of self-efficacy, and were better able to identify the warning signs of a dangerous relationship. Among adult Drop In Center participants, 92% felt better able to advocate for themselves and/or their children’s needs in the community. Among moms engaging in clinical child-focused trauma interventions at the drop in center 84% reported their children exhibited more positive attachment and/or improved behavior. Finally, among teen educational session participants, 91% agreed that, in a relationship, everyone is responsible for their own behavior; and 2% requested individualized follow up services.
Domestic violence is a crime that affects all members of society regardless of race, culture, economic class, educational background, age, sexual orientation or physical ability. Accordingly, La Casa’s services are available to all domestic violence victims and survivors. To facilitate access, we also actively strive to reach underserved and vulnerable groups including women of color, low income families, young mothers, youth aging out of foster care, immigrants, monolingual non-English speakers (particularly Spanish), LGBTQQI, the geographically isolated, and women with disabilities.
Direct beneficiaries per year:
Geographic areas served:
Women, children and Teens in the bay area
Domestic violence victims must be able to access safety as well as services supporting their transition to a violence free life. La Casa provides that bridge for battered women, teens and children seeking to escape abuse in their intimate partnerships. Our comprehensive services are multilingual, with specific English/Spanish capacity, and completely free of charge. Our expert intervention and prevention services reach more than 50,000 community members each year. Calling a crisis line is often the first step for a victim of domestic violence to reach out for help. Through our two (2) 24-hour Crisis Phone Lines we are able to provide callers with statewide, toll-free support, crisis counseling and information about community resources and services. La Casa Family Advocates are also on-site with the San Francisco Police Department's Domestic Violence Response Unit, at what is often the first point of access for domestic violence victims. Through the Domestic Violence Response Team, our Advocates accompany officers in responding to crime scene calls, follow up on police and medical reports indicating violent crimes against women, and assist medical personnel responding to abuse. Advocates provide crisis intervention and help professionals to identify victims’ needs, encourage victims’ safety and facilitate their access to services. Skilled legal service coordination also ensures victims’ civil legal needs, like restraining orders, receive immediate attention. La Casa also has the capacity to shelter and provide comprehensive advocacy and support services to 35 women and children per night. Our 8-week Emergency Shelter Program emphasizes independent living skills and individual counseling, support groups and vocational/educational referrals to reverse the isolation caused by domestic violence. Family Advocates assist each woman and her children with counseling, referrals, court and social service accompaniment, advocacy re legal, housing, job training and placement, financial and medical needs. The shelter program also utilizes family-based interventions, working with women and their children together as a family unit to strengthen families in crisis and break the intergenerational cycle of violence. Our collaborative model supports mothers in providing positive and developmentally enriching experiences for their children through mother/child playgroups; individual counseling; art and movement therapies; and day care, after-school and day camp programs. Through the Drop-In Counseling Center La Casa is able to meet the initial and ongoing needs of battered women and their children. Drop-In Counseling Center staff provide individual counseling and facilitate support groups for women who have left the shelter but wish to continue their counseling sessions and women who are not seeking emergency shelter, but who wish to address the impact of domestic violence on their lives. Child-centered clinical counseling is also available through La Casa’s Intern Program and in collaboration with San Francisco General Hospital’s nationally-reknowned Child Trauma Research Project. In addition, resource advocacy, referrals, emergency food and clothing are available. The Safe Havens Project, a collaboration with the San Francisco Unified Family Court and Saint Francis Memorial Hospital’s Rally Visitation Program, enables La Casa to address the needs of domestic violence victims as they develop and implement custody arrangements with their batterers. La Casa’s Advocate assists survivors in realizing shared custody and visitation schedules, where they are ordered by the Court, that prioritize the parent and children’s safety while providing support navigating what can be an intimidating and punitive system. La Casa’s Teen Program provides adolescent-appropriate intervention and prevention services to battered and at-risk youth and their children/siblings. Using La Casa's basic service model, counselors assist each teen client with individual counseling, support groups, court and social service accompaniment, advocacy regarding legal, housing, financial and medical needs, and referrals for job training and placement. Our Teen Advocates are available at our Drop-In Counseling Center and also hold counseling hours at nine (9) San Francisco high schools to facilitate support for adolescents. Interaction focuses on helping teens recognize potentially abusive relationships, better understand what creates a healthy relationship, and gain an understanding of how the "Cycle of Violence" may apply to their lives. La Casa's on-site Case Management Programs support up to 158 residents of two single women’s transitional/permanent housing facilities in the Tenderloin—the Mary Elizabeth Inn and Verona Hotel. Offering housing stability and emotional support services, the case managers provides advocacy, counseling and referrals to help formerly homeless residents sustain independent housing, build skills and community, and continue to move through the healing process, while building permanently violence free lives. The Safe Housing Project is working to empower residents of San Francisco’s permanent supportive housing sites to create communities that foster and demand violence free lives. Originating from the San Francisco Family Supportive Housing Network member sites’ articulated need to systematically address domestic violence, the program brings La Casa’s expertise onsite—through widespread outreach, staff and resident education, community-building efforts, site-specific direct service designs and relevant policy review and advocacy—to raise awareness of abuse, its effects and alternatives, provide tailored support, and help residents build a community, from within, that does not tolerate violence. An integral adjunct to our direct services, La Casa’s Community Education and Outreach Program provides outreach to media, schools, corporations and community groups. Program activities seek to prevent domestic violence among teens and adults, give voice to silenced victims of domestic violence, and motivate social change through community education and public awareness.
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Reviews for La Casa De Las Madres
3 people found this review helpful
La Casa has a wonderful history in the community of helping domestic violence survivor women and children. The employees are passionate about the work they do.
There is an excessive amount of turnover for a reason, and it is easy to understand why there are lawsuits against this organization.
The value of any given employee's expertise and skills is of no relevance or interest to management. Over-bearing micromanagement does not make space for employees to serve the clients the mission sets out to assist. Experts in their field, the passionate employees of La Casa are not trusted to perform their job functions by the ED, who walks through the office each day muttering put downs and setting the office tone of tension and fear. The Associate Director reorganizes the development associates desk while they are trying to perform their job functions, and criticizes what and how most phone calls are handled, so that 4 people have held the position within year's time. The most recently 'promoted' Program Manager has insufficient experience to perform the work the position requires. She makes inappropriate comments about crashing employees weddings, complains most days of being tired and leaves early, though she doesn't appear to work most of the day, and rather than scheduling content related to the La Casa mission for staff meetings, has a food pantry coming for 6 hour and half sessions to make food since she like to eat.
Volunteers are considered warm bodies to patch the holes left with so much employee turnover, and there is utterly no appreciation for their dedication and time .
A solution to the ongoing crisis at the agency with the oldest domestic violence shelter in California would be to clean house, starting from the top. The governing board really needs to consider seriously the employment turnover and examine carefully what is happening inside the organization domestic violence survivors think of when they need help, and further, consider how these clients' needs are being met when the staff and volunteers are disregarded so frivolously. This 40 year old organization will quickly crumble if new leadership and organizational restructuring is not implemented soon.
7 people found this review helpful
I came to La Casa de las Madres in 2006 without any experience in the field, but a passion to help empower women and children to live a life free from violence. I'm very dishearten by some of the comments below about upper management and Kathy Black. When I came to this agency without any experience Kathy give me the opportunity to learn and grow within the agency. It's extremely disheartening that individuals who claim to value and love the work La Casa does have launched a full on character assassination via cyber bullying to further their own agenda. I believe in change, it's good for growth in every aspect of life. I do not agree with the changes that are being vocalized here. I am one of the many non-management employees of La Casa who's views and opinions are not represented in the so called anonymous survey. I'm sadden by the agenda behind the survey. The survey results do not accurately reflect all of La Casa's current or former staff. As a current employee I was never asked to participate in an anonymous survey. I want to make this very clear I was not approached by Kathy or upper management to write this, so please do not take my comments with a grain of salt or try to devaluated my experience.
10 people found this review helpful
Unfortunately, I had to leave La Casa about a year ago now. Although, I really valued the work I was doing, I was disgusted by the work culture and the way management treats staff. In my 3 years with the organization, I have heard the executive director call her employees “sissy,” state that they are “replaceable,” and talk poorly about staff members behind their back, often times breaching staff confidentiality. I have witnessed really competent employees getting fired for speaking up to management. Working at the Drop-in Center was like walking on eggshells. The irony of working at a domestic violence agency when your ED has the biggest power trips and verbally abuses her employees.
I remember when my coworkers and I addressed our concerns during a staff meeting because we were understaffed which not only put a lot of stress on the advocates fulfilling multiple roles, but also affected the services that are being delivered because clients are waiting or be told to call back because there is not enough staff to be attending to the crisis line, seeing clients, and covering the reception at the same time. My concerns were never addressed and I was told that I couldn’t speak at the meetings anymore. Wow, so much for having an open door policy.
La Casa has so much potential and the staff do such important work that it’s a shame the way their employees are being treated. As a former employee, I was also active in trying to reach out to the board of directors to schedule a meeting, but unfortunately we got no active response, which causes me to question the relationship between the ED and the board. Something needs to change because La Casa has one of the highest turnover rates for a non-profit. It’s funny how understaffed and how slow they are to replace employees, but the ED is making over $140,000. Something’s wrong with this picture.
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7 people found this review helpful
I am an individual that has been working in the not-for-profit field for over 16 consecutive years. Of those 16 years, I have worked for La Casa for 10 years. I first began my relationship with La Casa while I worked for workforce development agency. I was referring a victim to their agency and the first encounter that I had was with the front desk staff and Kathy Black, who was the Executive Director. Kathy was right there at the front-line ready to answer all of my questions as a referring case manager. She encouraged any and all inquiries, which made me feel very comfortable. I later began working for La Casa as an advocate in the emergency shelter, and within a year I moved into a coordinator position where I was given the opportunity to expand my skills and career. After a year as a coordinator, I left the agency due to personal reasons but continued to work within the agency as an on-call staff. Because of my past experience with La Casa, I have recently returned and now work full-time with this agency.
But I would like to express my experience not only with La Casa as an agency but also personally with Kathy Black. I don’t have a resume filled with credentials and higher education, I do however have an extensive work history. Kathy gave me an opportunity to be a part of this organization and through my continued hard work, I was given an opportunity to move up, learn, and expand. There has not been any point within my years of working at La Casa that have I ever experienced feeling that I could not talk with Kathy or any of my immediate supervisors. When I was experiencing personal issues, I knew that Kathy had an open door policy, and I was able to talk with my immediate supervisor at the time and Kathy. They were very understanding and willing to work with me to make adjustments. I have personally felt that I could approach Kathy with any questions or my thoughts and opinions and never felt there would be any type of retaliation as a result. I am only one staff person within this agency but I feel strongly that I’d like to express my experience and really appreciate the opportunity, on Great Non Profits, to do so. Thanks so much.
9 people found this review helpful
I have worked for La Casa for over five years, about half in direct service to clients and the other half in manager and director level positions. In that time I have gone through two pregnancies, raised a family, and commuted over an hour each way on a daily basis. When people ask me why I have continued to work full time amidst those challenges, my answer is always the same: I love my job and I love this organization.
When I talk to people who are considering coming to work here or who have just started, I often share my story, because I think it's a great example of the opportunity this organization provides. I originally applied for a part time job as an advocate at La Casa. I was actually looking for full-time work, but I had heard of La Casa's positive reputation and that was what was available. I was lucky in that they were able to provide me with a full-time position as an advocate splitting time between two programs. I immediately loved working here; I had a passion for the work I was doing and I also had a wonderful and supportive supervisor. She was always there when I needed her and always treated me respectfully whether providing positive feedback or constructive criticism. I always felt like I received the training and feedback I needed to grow both on a one-on-one basis and in a group setting in staff meetings and other trainings that we were provided.
About a year later, a case management position opened. The executive director, Kathy Black, let staff know that the position was open and encouraged me to apply. Although I was more than qualified for the position, without her encouragement it hadn't occurred to me to apply. I had a similarly positive experience with my supervisor in that role and continued to feel supported in my growth as a professional and within the organization. Another year later, a position in management opened up. Again, I wouldn't have applied for this position without the support and encouragement other management staff and particularly Kathy Black. I knew that I was qualified, but knowing that they believed in me made gave me the confidence I needed to take the initiative to pursue it.
Since that time, for almost the past three years, Kathy Black has been my direct supervisor. Like my other supervisors at this organization, Kathy has always been respectful towards me whether giving me positive feedback or counseling me in areas where I can improve. She has supported me in developing myself in a leadership role, often at times when I was uncertain of myself. Seeing her passion for this work continues to be an inspiration to me both personally and professionally.
I think the most important part of my story is that it's not at all unique. There are so many people in this organization who have been involved in a variety of ways, from volunteering to relief staff who move on to administrative and advocate roles, then on to case management and beyond. To me it speaks volumes about the organization that people are so invested in staying here and similarly speaks volumes about the leadership that they are willing to invest in their employees.
7 people found this review helpful
In the 3 years that I have worked with La Casa I have been able to see countless lives be changed in both immediate and long-lasting ways. Time and again when people find out that I work for La Casa, they share an experience of having learned valuable information from a presentation done by our Teen Program or Outreach and Education program; they share of having received support on the crisis line or having referred a friend to our Drop In Center; other service providers share of their positive experiences working with our advocates to get mutual clients into shelter or support in working towards a restraining order. Over the years here I have provided clinical counseling, run support groups, done presentations, answered the crisis line and now manage the Community Programs. I know from both first hand client feedback and second hand feedback from other advocates and members of the community that La Casa provides crucial services in a caring and respectful manner.
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11 people found this review helpful
I am a current employee at La Casa de Las Madres, and I have been with the agency for almost nine years. I love the work we do at La Casa and the community we serve. Together my coworkers and I support families who are struggling to gain strength and independence. With that being said, I could never work for an agency and/or employer who disrespected, mistreated or bullied me. I am a strong independent thinker. And at this time I would like to thank La Casa for helping me find my own strength, independence, and leadership skills. I would also like to state that my views are far different than from those of the user staff.lacasa. The user staff.lacasa does not represent me, nor speak my voice.
I am a family advocate at La Casa’s confidential shelter. I LOVE IT! For the past nine years I have been direct shelter service, and I couldn’t even describe the list of my job duties. We all work hard to provide the best we can for our clients, and the work I do for La Casa does not go unnoticed. I can’t count the times our executive director Kathy Black, has expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the work I do. I have been offered advancement within the agency on numerous occasions, but I love where I am, and the position I hold. I have witnessed, however; many co-workers thrive in this agency. I have seen co-workers leave La Casa for whatever their Endeavour (with the full support from Kathy Black) only to return some years later, as they found this agency to be supportive and accepting of their creative talents.
I would also like to mention that I have had multiple closed doors meetings with upper management. I have sat in Kathy Black’s office to discuss sensitive work related issues. I spoke freely, and I was heard.
So again, the user staff.lacasa and I do NOT share the same views. My experience working for this agency is very positive. I feel respected and supported by upper management, and I hope to continue on with this agency for many more years to come.
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8 people found this review helpful
Since 1999 I have been employed by La Casa de las Madres, first as a counselor, then as Program Director and I am currently the Clinical Supervisor, a position I have enjoyed since 2001. I work side by side and train the therapists at La Casa who provide psychotherapy to residents at the shelter and to women, teens and children at La Casa's Drop In Center.
I am disturbed by the comments below, alluding to Kathy Black as a liability to La Casa. Kathy was my direct supervisor when I was the Program Director and my experience of being an employee was worlds apart than that described. It has been my experience that working at La Casa offers opportunities for growth and learning if a person is interested and capable of that. I have seen staff begin their employment as a receptionist and go on to work as an advocate and then shelter manager. I have seen staff begin as relief staff and become case manager at the new Housing Authority site. I have had the opportunity to grow and flourish at La Casa.I have known staff that left La Casa for other jobs and returned to La Casa because they believe in the work and feel supported by staff. It is an easy and cheap shot to point the finger at your boss. Especially anonymously.
In my work as a psychotherapist and as a supervisor, I remind myself and those I work with to look within when troubled by others as projection can be a dangerous and destructive defense.
Since I have worked at La Casa I have witnessed the conception of and implementation of many new programs; The Teen Program, the DVRT Program, the case management at The Mary Elizabeth Inn and Verona Hotel. None of these existed prior to Kathy's time as Executive Director. She has expanded services at a time where unfortunately many non-profits have had to close. We have affiliations in the community that have been nurtured by Kathy.
I have felt supported and cared for by Kathy and the staff at La Casa. I have had difficult conversations with Kathy as an employee and contractor and found her door always open and her to be fair and open minded while considering my needs or requests. It has been my honor and privilege to be part of this vital, strong agency for 16 years.
8 people found this review helpful
In 2013 I began volunteering at La Casa as part of an undergrad requirement. I was pleasantly surprised at the great support and treatment staff, including management staff, gave volunteers. As a domestic violence survivor myself, it gave me great pride to be a part of an organization that does so much for awareness of domestic violence. When a position opened up, I jumped at the opportunity. Over the almost year that I have been a staff member at La Casa, I have experienced the same support and treatment that I initially received as a volunteer. In particular, I have received much support from Lindsay, the Program Director, who’s always open and accessible to any questions or concerns I may have as well as the Kathy, the Executive Director, who has played a major role in my own professional development, which I am ever so grateful for. It’s great to work alongside such passionate individuals who give their all on a daily basis in support to La Casa’s clients and the growth of the organization.
In regards to the negative review that user: staff.lacasa wrote I would like to point out that I was never approached by anyone to give my input on the “staff-run survey” that staff.lacasa provided a link to. This survey is a misrepresentation of La Casa staff and the organization’s workplace environment, as it only presents the opinion of 13 anonymous employees out of almost 40 current employees. It saddens me that an individual that clearly has a personal gripe against one person at the organization would go through such lengths to overshadow the great work that is being done at La Casa and the immense support that us “paid staff” receive from management including Kathy Black.
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11 people found this review helpful
As La Casa’s associate director and a long-time member of La Casa de las Madres’ staff, I am disheartened by the comments included in the post below. They do not reflect my experiences, over nearly 14 years, of a passion-filled, supportive, hard-working, and visionary community of staff and volunteers. It’s sad and frustrating to hear – particularly in this anonymous and public communication purporting to seek “positive change” – that employees feel voiceless and see no other recourse.
I know that we offer many opportunities for input and feedback, both from clients and staff. And I can attest to the organization’s care and proactivity in service of our community, which includes staff, volunteers, survivors, partners, and contributors. While La Casa does have a management structure which includes a hierarchy of power and supervision, it’s designed and implemented to facilitate staff support and improve client service offerings and delivery. It’s also an open environment. Supervisors’ doors are open, scheduled supervisory and support convenings – both for individual members and program teams – are frequent, and policies and procedures are articulated and accessible in central locations to guide staff through the philosophical, legal, and practical underpinnings of La Casa’s approach to and work with and for survivors. Bimonthly all-staff gatherings open space for agency wide communication, sharing challenges, and presenting ideas, progress, and plans. For direct service staff each bimonthly session includes an additional skill-building or training component, which includes self-care among many other resources and topics. I see managers’ doors open and know program directors invite staff to share their experiences and bring ideas to the table.
There are always things that can be done to improve a workplace, and sometimes the experience of supervision can be harder than we as supervised employees like to admit – our accountability and responsibility balanced against the organization’s.
La Casa is a vibrant and critical resource that I am proud to call home. It navigates the difficult terrain of nonprofit service with a deep integrity: by championing service of its mission and community while holding itself accountable to that community and by balancing the practical realities of managing a business with the heart, soul, and challenges of trauma-based work that also unearths longstanding imbalances in real and perceived power. La Casa’s integrity – its internal and external philosophical resonance – and Kathy Black’s leadership are why I have stayed. I am extremely lucky to be not just a part of La Casa’s and the broader anti-violence community, but one who earns my living through this work. I am proud, and I am grateful.
22 people found this review helpful
La Casa de las Madres’ Executive Director is a huge liability to the functioning of the organization and she has been a primary and direct cause for La Casa having an ongoing inability to maintain a full staff. The following link shows independent staff-run survey results reflecting these issues with upper management:
For further details on the situation at La Casa de las Madres, please note the following:
1) Most reviews written at greatnonprofits.org for La Casa are from volunteers. The work of La Casa's volunteers is much appreciated; volunteers are generally treated with respect at La Casa—as they should be. Unfortunately, paid staff do not experience the same treatment and many fear posting about their personal experiences on this and other websites in fear of retaliation from the upper management.
2) Policy and procedures at La Casa and the way they are actually carried out by the upper management often only prioritize meeting funding goals while restricting staff’s ability to respond to client needs as voiced by the clients themselves and the direct service staff who work with them on a daily basis. It is important that La Casa can deliver services that meet the needs of the community and respond in a flexible way that evolves at the same rate as the needs of our clients do. It is important that we ask clients what their needs are and how we can further create and deliver services in a way that specifically addresses their needs. Quarterly reports to funders are not sufficient in reflecting these needs as they are specifically structured to reflect whether funding requirements have been met and not whether actual client needs are being met or their actual outcomes are successful. At La Casa, “getting our numbers up” takes priority over providing quality services.
3) La Casa de las Madres has a serious problem retaining staff due to the negative work environment created by the upper management., This problem is hidden from funders. On several occasions, direct service staff (advocates, case managers) have overheard upper management lie directly to funders about staff turnover during their meetings at our drop-in center saying that staff leave to pursue higher education or for personal reasons. In the past two years La Casa has had over 20 staff leave, and this number is excessive considering the small overall size of our organization (full capacity varies, but generally 25-35 people). Unfortunately, this turnover rate has been due to the way upper management—specifically the Executive Director of La Casa—mistreats staff. We encourage funders to speak directly to several non-managerial staff from each program. Ask upper management to let you speak with direct service staff who have been at La Casa for longer than a year, maybe two years if possible (although there are very few people who have been there that long). See for yourselves how efficiently your money is being spent. Is your money constantly used to ensure the safety of women and children fleeing domestic violence? Or is it being spent on constantly posting ads on Craigslist and interviewing/training new staff? Paying overtime because facilities are understaffed? Paying for legal advising because the ED is in constant fear of litigation from the many staff members she has mistreated?
4) In October 2014, current and former La Casa staff organized to address some of the issues that staff were facing at the organization. We asked that the Board to actively participate in ensuring that staff have a safe space to voice their opinions about concerns specifically associated with the upper management’s mistreatment of staff at La Casa. The letter read as follows:
October 24, 2014
Dear La Casa de las Madres’ Board of Directors:
This letter is written on behalf of La Casa de las Madres’ current and former staff. In light of La Casa's vision that all individuals attain safety and respect in their lives, La Casa's current and former staff feel it necessary to reach out to our Board of Directors for assistance. La Casa is widely recognized for being at the forefront of the anti-domestic violence movement in the Bay Area and beyond. For this reason, La Casa has always attracted a team of staff who are passionate and devoted to upholding the mission of the organization. We wish to go above and beyond expectation to provide our clients with the excellent advocacy they deserve. As a domestic violence agency committed to countering power and control over women, it is crucial that the upper management model the professionalism, trust and respect that we embody for our clients.
After attending a self-care staff retreat with other Bay Area domestic violence organizations such as The Riley Center, CORA, and Woman Inc., we were encouraged as a team to recognize our needs as service providers to survivors of trauma. We were impressed by the culture of nonhierarchical team collaboration, transparent decision making and authentic self-care at the participating agencies. We feel that the small efforts at La Casa to improve have not been effective in stemming the overwhelming rate of staff turnover and the negative atmosphere in our organization. The upper management’s attitudes and policies towards subordinate employees are the primary source of ongoing complaint.
We would like to request that La Casa's Board of Directors issue an anonymous survey of current and former staff member's experiences, feelings and satisfaction with working at La Casa. Given the current atmosphere at our organization, the remarkably high rate of staff turnover and the ongoing number of unfilled positions, it is pressing that we are offered an anonymous means of sharing our experiences. Recent attempts by staff members to address these issues directly with their supervisors have been ignored or dealt with inadequately. Therefore it does not feel safe or productive to communicate directly with upper management for a response to our concerns. For this reason, we are reaching out to the Board of Directors for assistance.
If the Board agrees to this proposal, we would like to collaboratively work to elicit honest feedback from current and former staff. We look forward to your response and hope to work together to express our needs in order to promote the growth and success of La Casa de las Madres and the individuals and families we serve. Thank you for your time and attention in this critical matter.
12 non-managerial La Casa staff members and 23 former employees
The Board’s response was:
Board of Directors
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing on behalf of the Board of Directors of La Casa de las Madres in response to your two recent anonymous emails. The Board and La Casa’s management team welcome input from La Casa employees concerning its policies and procedures. We encourage you or any employees who would like to provide feedback on La Casa’s policies and procedures to contact La Casa’s Executive Director, Kathy Black at email@example.com. If you are not satisfied with the response Kathy offers or you are not comfortable contacting Kathy, you may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While we welcome constructive dialogue with management and staff on concerns relating to La Casa’s policies and procedures, we do not believe that an anonymous survey conducted by an unidentified third party would be an effective method to assess La Casa’s policies and practices. We will instead be communicating directly with current staff concerning these issues. If you are a member of staff, we look forward to hearing more about your views.
[the names disclosed in these emails are public]
No staff member was willing to non anonymously speak directly to the Board out of fear so we drafted a second letter and formulated our own survey that reflected the immediate concerns of staff. The letter read as follows:
December 30, 2014
Dear Maria Bee and Members of LCDM’s Board of Directors:
On October 24, 2014 we, a group of current and former La Casa de las Madres employees, submitted a letter to you that brought your attention to a pervasive dissatisfaction with the upper management’s treatment of employees at La Casa. Because so many current and former staff feared retaliation if they addressed these concerns directly to their supervisors or to upper management, we decided as a group to request that the Board of Directors issue an anonymous staff survey to stimulate a review of La Casa’s leadership. We hoped that if we were allowed a safe method to share our true feelings and experiences working at La Casa, the Board of Directors would be extremely concerned and take action.
On November 23, 2014, Board President, Maria Bee sent a reply to our letter. The reply fell short of our expectations in several ways. First, the reply implies that we are contesting LCDM’s Policy and Procedures. However, our letter makes it clear that our complaint lies with upper management’s behavior and treatment of staff, including, but not limited to, their use of policy to run the organization in a way that is unsatisfactory. To be clear, our primary complaint is that Kathy Black’s behavior towards staff and abuse of her power as Executive Director is unacceptable and contradictory to our mission as an anti-domestic violence organization. Secondly, the reply to our letter asks staff to provide feedback directly to their supervisors or to Kathy Black. As we clearly stated in our letter, the specific purpose of reaching out to the Board of Directors for support rather than La Casa management is due to the need for an anonymous venue for feedback. We also stated that previous attempts to address our concerns have been unsuccessful in creating lasting positive change. Again, no current or former staff member felt safe or comfortable coming forward directly for fear of retaliation from Kathy Black due to her reputation for such behavior. Unfortunately, we do not feel assured of our confidentiality in contacting you through an email address within the lacasa.org domain. Finally, your reply to our letter solicits feedback from current La Casa staff only. It is essential that former staff members be included in this process in order to highlight Kathy Black’s pattern of mistreatment of La Casa staff over the years. Because of the high turnover rate, the majority of current staff have worked at La Casa for less than a year, and many for less than six months. Unfortunately, many former staff left La Casa have experienced or witnessed unacceptably negative behavior on the part of Kathy Black, and a serious attempt to review her behavior cannot overlook their experiences. Your response email to current La Casa staff undermines our letter by suggesting that it was written by an individual or a third party. We reiterate that this letter was read and approved by 35 current and former staff, and it was sent through an anonymous email address because no individual felt safe coming forward, even as a messenger.
Over two months ago, we sent the Board of Directors a letter requesting your attention and support regarding our serious dissatisfaction with upper management’s treatment of La Casa staff. During the past two months, no proactive effort has been taken on the part of the Board of Directors or La Casa management to directly address the complaints we raised. It is disheartening that the Board fails to take seriously the voices of the team of people who have sincerely dedicated themselves to La Casa’s mission. Because La Casa’s Board hesitated to facilitate an anonymous survey of our experiences and feelings, we have done so on our own. You may review the results of this survey at the following link:
We hope the responses to this survey shed light on the unacceptable treatment of staff by Kathy Black and her direct hand in causing so many talented and passionate employees to leave the organization. A group of current staff have volunteered to come forward despite their fears of retaliation. We would like to schedule a meeting with the President of the Board to further this conversation. If the Board continues to minimize or ignore these concerns, we will have no choice but to seek outside support.
Domestic violence is never a private matter. As domestic violence advocates, we refuse to tolerate unacceptable behavior, violence and abuse any longer at our organization. We encourage you to support us in breaking the silence about our treatment in our workplace. By staying true to our values and mission, La Casa de las Madres can remain at the forefront of the anti-domestic violence movement in our community. It is in good faith that we again reach out to you, the Board of Directors, in hopes of creating positive change at La Casa de las Madres.
Current and Former La Casa Staff
Since this letter was written, four months ago, there has been no further action on the part of the Board or the upper management to address this situation. In the past four months nine staff members have quit or have been fired, and still no proactive measure has been taken to address the cause of this extremely high turnover and the toll it takes on remaining staff and the clients they serve.
La Casa could be a great nonprofit, but there are serious issues at the organization that boil down to a deep contradiction between our mission to end violence and abuse against women, and the verbal and emotional abuse and inordinate use of power and control happening on a daily basis towards La Casa’s own staff members.