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Imagine That...January 2024

In Loving Memory of Damien Tucker-Beck

In Memory of Damien

Charlie, the newest member of our family

Eliot presides at Christmas

Dave, Sophie and Becky bring the elf to our holiday party

The Imagine Leadership Team at the holiday party

Dogidays at the office

Ash and Simone making holiday cards

Scott enjoying Pedro's cooking

Eliot and Leslie riding the bus, like common folk

Carla and Sophie at the Winter Party.

Garret and Chloe before the Roaring Camp Holiday Light Train ride.

Same location, with Beto making fun for Brian again

Chris and Jeff on the holiday train

Alan, friend and Jake at the holiday light train

Alan, Perla and Kiara at Scott's House

Winter Party swings

Tiffany, Becky and Dave on the Holiday Train

Sophie hasn't moved but she sure did find a home.

Stephanie, Beto, Brian and friends


Dear Imagine friends and family,

We had a wonderful and challenging December to cap our wonderful, challenging 2023. Looking forward, we are hoping for a wonderful and challenging 2024 with some different wonders and fresher challenges.

Everyone who reads and believes the sincerity of this newsletter (and thank you and bless you) will know that after their heroism and great effort during the pandemic, Imagine set out to make 2023 the year of the caregiver. We are here for the people we serve and the direct caregivers focus on our clients. We wanted the leadership to focus in 2023 on the care we give to them, validating their work and our appreciation of it through better compensation, more attention to their professional development, faster and more effective attention to their concerns and a more supportive agency environment.

We will continue to work, especially around building better communication between teams, more training opportunity and responding more quickly and effectively to concerns and ideas that arise, but we had a pretty successful year. In 2023, our base wage for awake shifts rose 12%, leaving them, by September nearly 25% above where they had been 18 months earlier. We also built in premiums for more experienced direct care staff, those accepting less desirable shifts and some of those serving clients with especially intensive needs. About 10% of our caregivers are now paid similarly to certified technicians in the healthcare industry.

We also renormalized old standards which had deteriorated in recent years, including those that supported staff development, healthy team dynamics and better communication among stakeholders. As examples, our training budget has grown and is being used more fully than in the recent past and regular, monthly house meetings including training and person-centered thinking have returned to most teams. We believe that nurturing our caregivers is the best way Imagine can create the conditions for our clients' success against their individual challenges.

In the process of improving conditions for caregivers, we quickly found that facilitation was breaking down. An example of that breakdown is that annual evaluations, a long-standing standard, were one of our failures. Nobody can do caregivers evaluations but the Facilitators who observe the caregivers directly and we failed pretty thoroughly last year in this regard. For evaluations to go reliably and equitably forward, it is necessary for our Facilitators to have time to thoughtfully work with caregivers on how they can improve their work for those we serve.

So we have, throughout 2023 been working to better support our Facilitators as well. Facilitators have much higher turnover than our caregivers in recent years, although previously they were some of our more stable employees. As we set out to implement our improvements to caregiver lives, we kept bumping into exhaustion and burnout among even newer and younger Facilitators.

One result was in our Year of The Caregiver, we put a lot of work and thought into systematically improving facilitation at Imagine. In 2024, our next focus, as a means of better supporting our clients, is a Year of Facilitation.

We also want to welcome two new members of our leadership team: Lia Vargas is our newest Facilitator and Maggie Amezcua is our new Administrative Assistant. Please welcome them, as they are great people and we're glad to share our mission with them.

Just below this column is a fuller explanation of where we see ourselves now, what we did in 2023 in an effort to improve, how we analyze the opportunity to improve and the efforts we plan for 2024. Here is a trigger alert for especially parents of our clients: Caseloads are growing, not shrinking in the near term. I hope you will give us a fair reading and I welcome your input, including outrage.

Further down, this month's newsletter includes the following:.

Patty Lopez, welcomes you into the new year and wishes you well.

In The Service Sector this month, Lead Facilitator Stephanie introduces you to her role.

It's important to and for the Person-Centered Evolution column to talk this month off.

In Community Connections, big news. We think we have found a leader for the group for 2024.

Our usual stuff in the columns around advocacy, self-determination and Transparency.

This month we have spotlights on Wendy and Nate, who is going to be his own employer of his staff through self-determination in 2024.

As ever, I am at your service. If you have any questions, feedback or concerns, please don't hesitate to get in touch. You can write me here. I look forward to hearing from you.

Gratefully yours,


The Year of The Facilitator

Sincere Holiday Greetings to you all;

As many of you recall, 2022 ended for Imagine without a Director of Services and, after a hard good faith effort to hire a replacement, I formally assumed supervision of the Facilitators with a lot of support from Patty, Imagine's Assistant Director. We quickly recognized that stress and organizational challenges were making work hard for Facilitators and submitting the goals and mission of the organization as well as the security and support of our clients to risk and damage.

Our response started with "Facilitator Support Plans," which were essentially a do-over of the Facilitators' evaluations with an emphasis on strengths, challenges and how Imagine's Executive and Administrative teams could better provide both accountability and support. A lot of our efforts to improve the proactive person-centeredness of our services, the work environment for our caregivers and communication with caregivers all suffered because Facilitators were overwhelmed. Our ability to make things better was challenged when we lost three Facilitators in the first half of 2023, who of whom had only spent a year in the role. Six is how many we have.

In June we surveyed our Facilitators about the hardest parts of the job and based on the collective input, we tried to systematically address both the pain points and to provide accountability, particularly on those areas of the job where failure had substantial impact on the development and/or deterioration of strong, effective, caring circles of support. We used some funds budgeted for the Director of Services to respond.

We created a temporary Lead Facilitator position with the purpose of doing for the Facilitators as a group some of those activities that cause stress individually. The Lead Facilitator manages the Client Care Responders (CCRs) who provide coverage when caregivers are sparse or ill; provides training and help to Facilitators and Lead Staff especially around individual service needs and planning; and audits house meetings and the use of Person-Centered Thinking tools. Stephanie is our Lead Facilitator.

We also temporarily enhanced our Book-keeping position to make it an Operations Manager position. In addition to the book-keeping, the Operations Manager also audits Facilitators records to make sure quarterlies and annuals are produced, kept and available; the Operations manager also insures that client financial records are kept well, accurately and up-to-date. Heather is our Operations Manager.

Additionally, Patty and Jen took on new roles. Patty now supervises our hourly administrative staff which frees me up to better support Facilitators and Jen has taken the responsibility of helping caregivers and facilitators get through payroll entries. Finally, using finds allocated for a Director of Services, we added an additional CCR to help Facilitators with coverage.

Our recruiter's position was enhanced to better provide for training needs and a new part-time recruiter was brought in to make sure that hiring continues in a way that prevents big gaps in coverage, which are an often-cited and pretty obvious source of Facilitator burnout.

It is very important to remember that all of our current and recent facilitators inherited caseloads where the practices that build stability and security and create the foundation for person-centered care were in many cases very far behind. Some of this is due to the impact of COVID on previous Facilitators. We can't and don't simply expect Facilitators to catch up and build great teams without substantial support. All of the 2023 changes will need time to make it easier to be a better Facilitator. But we take it as an important indicator that since changing the system in 2023, two more Facilitators have resigned after a year or less. Happily, both of these are staying with Imagine in other roles.

In describing where we are going, I want to share what now feels like the central insight: Excellence in care, robust teams, good communication, efficiency and the prevention of personal and staffing crisis are all the product of good, regular and routine upkeep of relationships, documentation, responsiveness and planning. The primary obstacle to each of these are the overwhelming needs that can be created by big things and small. (As an example of big, a client's health event. As an example of small, try a change in staffing.) Our current thinking is built around this idea: that keeping the quality of our care high and the condition of our facilitators spry requires us to address acute problems as a team so that the facilitators experiencing them can continue to build their teams through a close and consistent presence.

Here is a secondary math equation: The difference the number of clients makes is smaller than the impact of creeping chaos. As an illustration, a Facilitator with 6 clients who needs half their time to spend on maintenance efforts and can spend the rest being meaningfully present with each team, has three and a third hours per team available. One with 4 clients has five hours. Speaking from where I am sitting, the problem of not enough time for Facilitators to spend with each client seems less detrimental than the fact that current Facilitators addressing coverage issues and crises generally spend all their time on one or two teams and have trouble maintaining their involvement with other teams or even working proactively with the clients getting all their time.

So looking forward, we are working to develop a better, sustainable system for making sure our Facilitators can support teams that enrich client lives in a person-centered way without burning out or failing. A first look at our ideas will be presented to the board at the February meeting for inclusion in the development of next fiscal year's budget.

In the meanwhile, we are piloting our favorite current idea. We want there to be one Supporting Facilitator set aside with a small (or no) caseload of their own, but who understands the clients and the position well enough to join facilitators dwelling in a chaotic abyss. The goal is to make sure that each Facilitator is able to see all of their clients and participate meaningfully in their care and teams, to respond to everyone and to improve person-centered services even when a key staff has departed or a client needs new or different care.

In the current fiscal year, we don't have funds for new Facilitator positions, but we can make an experiment cost neutral by increasing the caseloads of every other SLS Facilitator by one and leaving another Facilitator with responsibilities for fewer clients but more for colleagues, clients and stakeholders. If this makes a difference, Imagine's finances permit and the board approves, we can return caseloads to their present size and keep the Supporting Facilitator role in the new fiscal year.

OK, let me have it.

-Submitted by Doug

Human Resources Corner

Hello Everyone, 

Happy New Year! I am sure I speak for everyone at the Imagine office when I say we are wishing for a fresh start and a better year. We are so very proud of the work we have done and of all our amazing direct care staff. You really make Imagine what it is. 

This year we are happy to announce that California is adding protections and benefits to all employees. The first is a minimum wage increase from $15.50 to $16/Hr. This change will apply to all overnight staff currently making $15.50. 

The second change is the expansion of sick leave time. This is non accrued time available to all employees regardless of Part Time of Full Time Status. California will be moving from 3 days of sick leave to 5 days of sick leave annually or the equivalent of 40 hours. This is an exciting change that allows all our employees to feel able to take time off when you are sick. 

Just a reminder that though COVID restrictions are gone, and exposure procedures have softened, we are still working with a vulnerable population and prefer you stay home if you have symptoms of COVID or any illness that may be infectious. 

We hope everyone continues to feel supported by the Leadership Team at Imagine, especially when it comes to taking care of your well being. 

I wish you a beautiful start to 2024! As always feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or need support. 

In Good Health, 

Patty Lopez

Assistant Director of Human Resources

Imagine Supported Living Services

Office: 831-464-8355 ext. 112

Cell: (831) 325-7760

Fax: (831) 612-6384

Doug's monthly intrusion into Patty's column: There are a few other changes staff should be aware of this year. One is that we are adding the Cesar Chavez Memorial holiday to our holiday calendar. Another important one is that rather than provide annual (yeah, I know) performance reviews on a team basis in the month after the client's birthday, we will begin holding them individually with staff in the month of each employee's (most recent) hire. We may not be ready to get this all perfect in January but we will try to catch up quickly.

The Service Sector

Greetings readers! As many of you may or may not know me, my name is Stephanie Urbina.

I’ve been with Imagine a little over two years, I came in as FHA facilitator and now serve as Imagine's Lead Facilitator.

Over the course of this past year there have been many changes throughout the agency and structure. We recently welcomed a new facilitator to our agency and hope to introduce our newest facilitator in the coming weeks. 

We are always finding ways to improve the way things work here at Imagine. We will continue to make changes and implement ways to improve the day-to-day work. My goal within the leadership team is to fine tune our different roles throughout the agency from our own team, to lead staff, support staff, and crisis support. 

With our lead staff, who play a role in the administration and crisis support end of things here, I land monthly in person meetings. We have begun working on ways to incorporate the administration role to better serve the individuals we serve. As you may have read in December’s service sector, our team has brought in technology in select homes to assist in the function of lead staff ensuring calendars are being updated accurately and timely as well as piloting the use of online daily logs. This has been a great tool for many homes and allows our teams to work more seamlessly. In addition to this we will begin working on more in service trainings for our support and crisis support staff. 

I also attend several other Facilitators' monthly house meetings on a rotating basis and track the use of person-centered thinking tools for each client.

As the new year comes in, we will be working on moving over most if not all our homes to use our digital time keeping system CareSmartz360 for medication administration, daily logs and more.  

If you would like to talk more about these upcoming changes or have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me here.  (insert my email link)

I wish you all a Happy New Year! And look forward to what’s in store for 2024.

-Stephanie Urbina 



Self-Determination is now available for any regional center client who chooses it but it sure ain't running smooth. Tentatively, I think it is getting a little better but boy howdy, is there room for improvement to continue.

If I can be of any help, please feel free to contact me. I'm pleased that there are a few current and recent Imagine employees who are developing Independent Facilitation practices and I'll be glad to connect them with those looking.

This month, the Independent Facilitator Roundtable will be Wednesday, January 3 at 11AM. The Zoom link is right here.

The Independent Facilitator Network, a confederation of professionals working self-determination (which started at Imagine!) has a Slack Channel you can join by clicking here. Individuals receiving services and family members are welcome and it's a great place to have your SDP questions answered by sad, wise experts.

-Submitted by Doug

Community Connections

We believe we have found someone generous with his time to take responsibility for continuing our Community Connections group. Stand by.

Transparency At Imagine

We're working on calendaring our 2024 meetings but I betcha Wednesday, February 21,at 11AM. At this meeting, staff intend to present to the board a basic budget projection as well as several possible new structures with estimated budgetary implications. Our meetings are open to all and if you email Maggie she'll make sure you get in and fed and heard.

Our last two delinquent audits are in process, after which we might just be able to produce a multi-year annual report for the first time since COVID.

I have had my 2023 Performance Evaluation. If you would like to see the final version, please feel free to email me.

Our most recent Form 990 was completed and is available here. A hint on the currency of it: The "Year" listed on the form is the year that the fiscal year began so it never feels like the latest since it is typically two years later that the form goes in. The "year" is 2021-2022.

We are still recruiting board members. We are working to diversify the board and to add a GAAP-trained treasurer. An attorney wouldn't be bad either. Neither would you. If you know someone with a passion for our mission who might like to volunteer, please write to me.

-Submitted by Doug

Advocacy Corner

This is the quiet season in government advocacy but local matters too. A group is developing an inclusive playground for Jade Street park in Capitola. Our own Julia H is a leader in the group with her parents. To learn more and consider supporting, click right here.

The next major step in the government cycle will come mid-month when the Governor will release a budget proposal and we'll all go wild trying to find the good or bad news.

As always, thanks to Marty Omoto of CDCAN for amplifying the transparency and circularity of information between the community and policy-makers. If you would like to receive CDCAN's extensive reporting, write to Marty. CDCAN's work is entirely funded by the donations of those of us who benefit. Write to me or to Marty if you'd like to kick in.

-Submitted by Doug

Person-Centered Evolution

Repeat from last month. There is no new column this month.

This is a tool I forget exists but it is very helpful especially for people who prefer or rely on structure.

The tool can be combined with the "Important To/Important For" tool to insure that preferences and needs are represented in the course of the week in appropriate amounts and it can produce a repeatable structure to time that may be reassuring for some individuals (or annoying to others.) Not every client will benefit from this tool but, hey, person-centered.

Spotlight on Wendy

You can overcome anything, IF and only IF you love something enough.” – Lionel Messi


As Scott says, “Wen-ieee” (Wendy) came to work with us back in June as the lead staff for Scottie. Scottie has touched her heart and has chosen to not just stay on the team but left her other job so that she could be with her client more and help cover shifts. She has taken a liking to the behavioral side of her clients care because she saw how loving and supportive it can be. She is now learning ABA and is almost ready to take the RBT test. It’s one of the reasons I love being a facilitator. I love watching my staff fall in love with their job and find new careers that they are passionate about and helping them grow. Wendy is always a joy to be around. If she is not joking around, which let’s be real she is always joking around! She has a huge smile, is finding something to do with Scottie, singing any song Scott is requesting, massaging (sorry Scott she draws the line at feet) or mopping with her huge yellow industrial sized bucket and mop. There is so much more to say, but the most important Wendy is such a joy to work with, I trust her and her abilities and even more than that, Scott trusts her implicitly. But I have a serious question for you all… How do you determine what is a breakfast wrap or breakfast burrito? Come on everyone! Help me win this argument against Wendy, its gone on long enough. 


Seriously though, thank you for all you do Wendy. We are proud to have you on team Scott and Imagine.

-Submitted by Jessica

[Editor's note. Wendy is right. A burrito is wrapped in a tortilla.]

Spotlight on Nathan

Nathan and his family have been formative of how I see Imagine, who we are, what we can be, what we should be and why we matter. Nate's mom was on the committee that interviewed me. Nate was one of my first friends among Imagine clients, and several of our first conversations took place among brother bronies. He has taught me a lot about The Walking Dead, in case I ever start to watch that show.

When Imagine had a "Men's group" he was one of the social stars. His authentic friendships outside of his care team, his competitive efforts in the special olympics and his freehand philosophizing have brought pride to Imagine on a regular basis.

Nate has attracted to himself a committed group of artistic, creative free-thinking people who maintain their fervor for his welfare and cover for one another to ensure he never goes unsupported and they involve him in their social and creative lives and community. Which brings us to another point where Nate (with his caregivers and family) have been instructive:

The purpose of Imagine's SLS service is to enrich, enable and empower the people we serve. The practice of our service is too often simply to insulate our clients against the chaos of caregiving. Nathan and his circle of support didn't often get the attention they deserved because they kept themselves in a fruitful and sustainable place. That was an opportunity to really test the outer limits of what Imagine can provide our clients and it was also an opportunity to neglect the stable team in favor of less functional ones or time off. Nathan and his circle were key to demonstrating how strong the temptation of the latter option has been for the team's facilitators. If you've read to here from the top, you know how valuable it has been to how we think about how we hope to improve.

Starting yesterday, Nathan is served through self-determination. Although Imagine remains formally involved for now, his goal is ultimately to be the direct employer, supervisor and programmer of his care. We wish Nate and his circle the best and remind them that, like the mafia, you don't get to leave our family, just the funding.

Thanks, Nathan, for the pleasure of serving you. I wish you well and look forward to seeing you often.

Photo: Nate and Teddy

-Submitted by Doug

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Staff and Client Birthdays:

Miranda B.

Chris P

Tom P

Zach M

Mariana L.

Juan Pablo M.

Kristin M.

Manases N.

January Employee Anniversaries:

Angela A. 1 Year!

Angie C. 1 Year!

Agustin G. 1 Year!

Lacie L. 1 Year!

Manases N. 1 Year!

Leslie R. 1 Year!

Kalen Z. 1 Year!

Thank you for your commitment!

Imagine Supported Living Services
9065 Soquel Drive
Aptos, Ca 95003
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