10.08.2013

Treehouse Celebrates 25 Years

By Janis Avery, Treehouse CEO

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Today marks Treehouse’s 25th anniversary of giving foster kids a childhood and a future.  Having had the honor of serving as Treehouse’s Executive Director and now CEO for eighteen of those years, I have been reflecting on all that we have achieved as well as our goals for the future.

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Treehouse was founded in 1988 by Representative Mary Lou Dickerson (retired) and a group of DSHS social workers who saw the deprivation often faced by children in foster care.  They held bake sales and car washes so they could provide the little things needed to help the children on their caseload feel loved and capable.  From very humble beginnings, we have built a state-wide organization serving more than 6,000 foster youth each year, helping them to succeed in school, meet key material needs, and experience important childhood activities that every child deserves.

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This year, we have made tremendous strides towards our 2017 goal that foster youth in King County graduate high school at the same rate as their peers with a plan for their future.  We implemented the Graduation Success program, which provides every middle and high school youth in foster care in our community with the resources and education planning, monitoring, coaching, and support services that all kids need to graduate and thrive.  We thank visionary legislative leaders and longtime Treehouse supporters Representatives Reuven Carlyle and Ruth Kagi, our aspirational partners, who helped pass legislation and a budget that will make a difference for our State’s youth in foster care including $892,000 over the next two years to demonstrate the power of our approach. This past June we celebrated success with our high school senior class of 39 students, with 23 of them graduating high school on time, and 15 of them having a plan for completion.  I am thrilled to share that 21 of these students are attending college or vocational training this fall.

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This past Saturday evening we had the opportunity to celebrate all of the momentous achievements of the past 25 years at the festive Silver Soiree event at the Paramount Theatre.  The room was filled with a wonderful group of more than 400 long-time and new Treehouse supporters.  Thanks to the tremendous efforts of co-chairs Ashley O’Connor McCready and Dana Frank, as well as Treehouse’s own Shaunessy Jones, the event’s program, which included everything from circus performers and musical acts, to inspirational vignettes by Treehouse partners and foster youth, resulted in a successful evening and fun was had by all.  The event also exceeded our fundraising goals.  With the help of Treehouse’s longtime supporter Julia Calhoun matching every dollar, more than $550,000 was raised on behalf of youth in foster care!  The live auction was a huge success with unique items such as a guitar signed by all of the members of Pearl Jam (thanks to Pearl Jam’s lead guitarist and generous Treehouse supporter Mike McCready) going to the highest bidder.  The event was a lovely way to celebrate the end of Treehouse’s 25th anniversary year.

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We are now embarking on year two of our five-year goal towards leveling the playing field for youth in foster care.  After 25 years, this work is still a community effort dependent on the passion, vision and heart of our dedicated partners, volunteers and donors.  Thank you to our community for all you do to enrich the lives of youth in foster care.

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About the Author

Janis Avery has led Treehouse since 1995.  As CEO, Janis devotes her time to promoting educational equity for youth in foster care through advocacy for systems change, ensuring integrated strategy and accountability, maximizing community collaboration, and resource development.  Janis has dedicated her life to improving the circumstances of children in foster care, both in her professional capacity as a social worker and in her own home, as the parent of two children adopted from foster care.


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