Treehouse Gives Kids in Foster Care a Childhood and a Future
At Treehouse, we provide children and youth in foster care with the academic and other essential support that all young people deserve, no matter their circumstances. Together with the help of our generous community, Treehouse is creating a world where kids who have experienced foster care have the skills, support, and confidence to graduate from high school with a plan for their future.
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Treehouse & Foster Care FAQ
Foster care is a temporary living arrangement for abused, neglected, and dependent children who need a safe place to live when their parents or another relative cannot take care of them. Often their families face issues such as illness, alcohol or drug addiction, or homelessness. Children are placed with licensed foster families, relatives, friends of the family, or in group care facilities while social workers and judges work with their families toward safe reunification or another permanent living situation.
Kids enter foster care through no fault of their own. All have experienced severe abuse and/or neglect. Family stress factors such as poverty, substance abuse, incarceration, mental illness, and homelessness have forced the state to intervene in the lives of families to protect children from abusive and neglectful situations. In Washington State, approximately 65% of all youth enter the foster system because of neglect, while 35% enter because of physical and sexual abuse. Child abuse and neglect occurs in all cultural, ethnic, occupational, and socioeconomic groups.
Once the court has decided that a child should be removed from his or her parent’s custody and placed in foster care, the birth parents and the child are assigned a social worker. Federal law requires that all children have a “permanency goal”—that is, there must be a clearly defined plan for the child to safely leave foster care. The initial goal for almost all children who enter the system is to eventually return to their birth parents’ care (i.e. reunification). Approximately 65% of children who enter foster care eventually return to their birth parents after they have completed necessary counseling and treatment.
When families are unable or unwilling to make the life changes necessary to ensure they can safely parent their children, other permanent, alternative options are sought. These options usually include adoption, a guardianship with another family member of friend, or remaining in foster care until the child turns 18.
On any given day there are 1,300 to 1,500 children in foster care in King County, and about 10,000 children in foster care across the state.
Kids in foster care are just like any other child you know with one difference – they have all suffered trauma and loss through no fault of their own. They have the same needs, dreams, and unique potential as all children, and seek the same opportunities that all kids equally deserve to build a bright and promising future – for their own well-being, and to be responsible and contributing members of their community. Youth in foster care demonstrate incredible resilience as they navigate their experience in foster care. Meet our kids and hear their stories.
Placement stability is a priority for Children’s Administration, but it is still common for kids in foster care to experience multiple changes in their home placement. While most children do not experience more than three placement changes on average during their time in care, some youth may experience ten or more placement changes. Studies indicate that there are several factors that can reduce the number of home placement changes that a child will experience during their time in care, including:
- An early health assessment (physical, mental, emotional) when the child enters care
- Training for foster parents to handle behavioral issues and special needs stemming from trauma
- Stronger social support for foster parents and caregivers
- More qualified homes and a more comprehensive match-making process between youth and caregiver
- Policies at the state, county, and agency level that influence initial placement decisions to ensure that first placements are permanent placements.
The Treehouse mission is giving foster kids a childhood and a future. We envision –and strive to create – a world where every child that has experienced foster care has the opportunities and supports they need to pursue their dreams and become productive members of our community.
After a child is placed in foster care, the Children’s Administration social worker assigned to their case can make a referral for Treehouse services. Treehouse offers a range of programs to help level the playing field for kids in foster care by providing the kinds of experiences and opportunities that all kids equally deserve. Once a child connects with Treehouse, they will continue to have access to education services, regardless of what happens with their placement status. Many of the youth who eventually return to the care of their birth families continue to need and deserve continuity of support for their educational success.
Treehouse has served over 103,000 youth since its incorporation in 1988.
Treehouse serves 7,000 children and youth in foster care in our community each year helping them to succeed in school, meet key material needs, and experience important childhood activities that every child deserves.
More than 85% of Treehouse funding comes from private sources. We rely on the generous support of our community to achieve our mission.
Treehouse was founded to help kids in foster care just be kids. In the late 1980s a group of DSHS caseworkers, frustrated by the lack of resources for extras for kids in their care, started raising money in their spare time to fund normal childhood experiences. Their small collection funded birthday presents and paid for extracurricular activities. In 1988, these volunteers teamed up with community leaders to create the Children’s Fund, a public-private partnership that was later renamed Treehouse. With the help of generous donors, Treehouse hired its first staff members in 1993. These professionals devoted their attention to developing programs to meet the unique needs of children in foster care. Over time, these evolved into the current suite of enrichment and education programs and acquired a track record of success in helping children in foster care thrive – now and in the future. Overthe years, Treehouse has grown tremendously, but its core has not changed. Treehouse is dedicated to leveling the playing field for youth in foster care. It is still a community effort that depends on the dedication and support of volunteers and donors.
Life in foster care can be extraordinarily challenging and disruptive for kids and teens, emotionally and developmentally. Separated from their family, youth in foster care face tremendous obstacles in school and in life. Research shows that kids in foster care suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at a higher rate than returning combat war veterans, and more than half struggle with mental health challenges stemming from the trauma they’ve endured. Academically, youth in foster care face an uphill battle due to changes in home placements and school transitions, lack of basic skills, and emotional upheaval. Access to important socialization opportunities – like music lessons and team sports – is limited, as is access to funding for essential needs like clothing, shoes, school supplies, haircuts, and funding for school fees.
Treehouse serves more than 7,000 youth in foster care each year through integrated and transformative programming to help them succeed in school, fulfill key material needs, and participate in essential childhood experiences that all kids equally deserve. Our services are strategically tailored to help them graduate from high school with a plan for their future. Treehouse also serves caregivers by providing educational and financial support to help them navigate the challenges and opportunities of fostering, to provide the best possible experience for the youth in their care.
Treehouse also collaborates with social workers, school systems, government agencies, and policymakers to improve outcomes for youth in foster care by removing barriers to academic achievement, and developing and supporting policies that promote the short and long-term well-being of youth in foster care. Learn more about the impact of our legislative advocacy.
Currently, Washington State reimburses foster families about 60% of the average cost for a family of moderate means to raise a child, and ranks 42nd in the nation in reimbursement to foster parents. This results in limited access to the essentials which further hinders academic success for students in foster care—items like seasonal appropriate clothing, sturdy shoes, school supplies and books, as well as money for personal care and school fees. Additionally, youth in foster care do not receive the educational supports they need due to lack of systems coordination between child welfare and schools, transitions in home and school placements, and unaddressed special education needs. Treehouse is the only organization in Washington State invested solely in improving the lives of youth in foster care. Neither child welfare or school systems can focus on the specialized educational needs of children in foster care. Treehouse is uniquely placed between these two systems and fiercely committed to better educational outcomes. In helping them to secure the essential education, basic material needs, and childhood experience s they equally deserve, we enable kids in foster care to be defined by their potential, not by their circumstance, and give them the same opportunities as other kids to graduate high school and pursue their dreams.
Foster youth in King County graduate from high school at the same rate as their peers with a plan for their future by 2017.
Treehouse is committed to closing the graduation gap for students in foster care. Currently, fewer than half of youth in foster care graduate from high school. There are a number of key issues facing students in foster care that contribute to this disparity, including but not limited to: lack of systems coordination between child welfare and schools, transitions in home and school placements, and unaddressed special education needs stemming from trauma and lack of early childhood education.
Without a high school diploma and a plan for their future, youth in foster care experience disproportionately high rates of poverty, homelessness, incarceration, mental illness, unplanned pregnancy, and substance abuse when they leave care. Treehouse is uniquely positioned to improve these outcomes by changing the trajectory of youth in foster care through integrated, research-based programs that help our youth make it to high school graduation day and beyond.
Treehouse relies on the support of donors, businesses, policymakers, partner agencies and volunteers to help give 7,000 youth in foster care a childhood and a future each year. In fact, Treehouse is 85% privately funded. We invite you to explore a number of ways you can Get Involved, and share our mission with your friends, family, colleagues, and social networks!