Nonprofit expands foster youth services

Foster youth can access school supplies, funding for tutoring and activites

A Seattle-based nonprofit that provides educational assistance to foster youth recently expanded programs it operates in Grays Harbor County.

The nonprofit, Treehouse, provides services to any foster youth with an open case in Washington state, including tribal dependency cases. With the added services, Treehouse plans to provide Grays Harbor foster youth with increased access to educational and life supplies, as well as expenses for activities and schooling.

Foster youth, ages five and older, can submit requests three times per year to the Treehouse “store” in Seattle, where volunteers package materials — clothing, shoes, school supplies, toys, books and others — and ship it to them. With another program, called “Just-In-Time Funding,” money for activities such as tutoring, prom tickets and swimming lessons can be requested by youth or businesses for reimbursement.

Treehouse was founded in 1988 and began programs in Grays Harbor County in 2006, typically working with adults who were close to foster youth to help navigate red tape within a school system. Another program provided one-on-one guidance to students as they ascended through high school, the primary goal that they graduate.

Since 2015, Treehouse has worked with 122 foster kids in Grays Harbor County, according to Katie Adams, a spokesperson for Treehouse. Right now, 54 youth are engaged in Treehouse programs in the county, about one-fifth of the total number of foster youth on the Harbor.

Foster youth often move during childhood, part of the reason Treehouse has programs statewide, Adams said.

“Youth in care tend to move multiple times a year, which is very disruptive to their education and sometimes to smaller school districts without the resources to support their needs, so this expansion ensures that Treehouse stays with the youth no matter where they go in the state and that someone is advocating for their education and ensuring they are getting what they need to be successful,” Adams said in an email.

Social workers, school staff, caregivers and others can make referrals for foster youth on the Treehouse website. Once the referral is made and processed, youth and their caregivers can access the new and existing services.