2023 Impact Report

July 2022 - June 2023

Treehouse envisions — and strives to create — a world where every child who has experienced foster care has the opportunities and support they need to pursue their dreams and launch successfully into adulthood.

Building on 35 years, Treehouse has become Washington’s leading organization addressing the academic and other essential support needs of youth in foster care. We help youth experiencing foster care overcome the everyday and systemic barriers they face individually and as a population.

Through resources and one-on-one coaching for youth and their adult networks and by working to change our systems for the better, Treehouse is dedicated to advancing educational equity and access for youth in foster care.

Who We Are

We are rooted in our belief that youth in foster care deserve what their peers have — the right to thrive and pursue their dreams.

We are evolving, from field trips to systems change, we help youth in foster care overcome the everyday and systemic barriers they face individually and as a population.

We are empowering, coaching youth in foster care as they set their own goals and gain confidence to advocate for themselves.

We are stretching, setting our sights on improving the outcomes of every youth in foster care across Washington state through integrated services.

We are leading the way, influencing state and national policies as Washington’s foremost organization addressing equity and access for young people in foster care.

We are partnering more deeply with those with lived expertise, centering their voice, choice and experience to shape their own journeys and ours.

We are building on 35 years of incredible support, growth and accomplishments, thanks to our youth, caregivers, supporters and partners who have made this possible.

We are just getting started as game-changers for youth in foster care as they reach for their dreams. Join us.

FY23 Highlights

Message from the CEO

Dear Friends,

This past year marks Treehouse’s 35 years. Treehouse was started by a group of people who saw first-hand how kids in foster care were not getting the care and investment that every child needs to blossom and thrive. I recently had the opportunity to gather with several of our early founding and contributing members. Their passion and willingness to be bold for young people shone through and set the tone for who Treehouse is today.

From school supplies to transition planning into adulthood, Treehouse is so proud to have been part of supporting tens of thousands of youth over the past 35 years. More than 1,000 students have completed high school since we started the Graduation Success program ten years ago. And just as rewarding has been to see our participants come back as volunteers, donors, staff, Fellows and vocal advocates for today’s young people in foster care.

We have experienced tremendous growth from where we first started — we are now an organization of 200 employees and expanded our school-aged programs statewide this year to better meet the needs of youth throughout Washington, regardless of zip code. We have also evolved to be an organization that not only addresses individual needs but is working to remove barriers and change outcomes at scale. We are using what we learn on-the-ground to shape policy and systems change as well as provide consultation to other groups nationally to guide how they show up for youth in foster care.

And we’re just getting started. It is in our DNA to learn, grow and evolve. We know the way forward is in deep collaboration with our youth, our partners and our community. Thank you to each and every one of you for being a part of this journey with us. I look forward to building on this momentum and to what we will accomplish together for our young people.

With Gratitude,

Dawn Rains, CEO

Building on 35 Years

Partner Spotlight: KIRO Newsradio

The 2023 holiday season marks 35 years of partnership between KIRO Newsradio and Treehouse.

The Holiday Magic program began as a way for KIRO Newsradio listeners to support youth in foster care during the holidays — by donating a toy or other gift. Caregivers faxed their youth’s gift requests to the station, and KIRO staff hovered around the fax machine, ready to share the latest toys needed on air. Once collected, the toys and presents were distributed to the youth through their social workers in partnership with Treehouse, and thousands of children received a holiday gift — sometimes their only — this way.

As Treehouse and KIRO Newsradio have grown and evolved, the way we now collect and distribute donations and presents has changed, but the dedication and spirit has endured. Through this invaluable partnership, KIRO Newsradio Holiday Magic campaign is still an important reminder of why youth in foster care need support and a big reason why thousands of young people all over Washington receive a meaningful holiday gift every year.

“My wife and I continue to support Treehouse with automatic monthly donations as we’ve done almost since the beginning of Holiday Magic. I remember when it was simply about Christmas gifts once a year — and now Treehouse provides a full range of services and support for foster children which we consider essential to a healthy community. Knowing how much support our own children needed growing up, we want to be part of a program that’s been so effective in providing that support to every foster child in Washington.”

Dave Ross, Host of Seattle’s Morning News on KIRO Newsradio

Changing Outcomes, One Youth at a Time

The conditions that support healthy childhood development are often out of reach to youth in foster care. Youth need access to critical childhood essentials and experiences to build skills, interests and identity. And they benefit from positive relationships and academic support to increase their engagement with school and serve as building blocks for their future.

Like their peers, kids and families involved in the foster care system require ongoing investment, support and resources to thrive. As we walk alongside thousands of young people in Washington state, we know that all the different ways we can help each of them gain confidence and believe in themselves are building blocks for their future.

Treehouse Participant Demographics

Statewide Expansion to Improve Access and Continuity

In April, Treehouse expanded our programs, opening eligibility for all school-aged youth in foster care across Washington state — after several years of planning and deeper partnerships. Graduation Success, Just-in-Time Funding and the Treehouse Store joined Educational Advocacy, Holiday Magic and Driver’s Assistance programs which already have a track record of providing Treehouse services statewide.

By expanding and aligning program eligibility, we improved access to our services, especially in rural and Tribal communities that have fewer available resources. This was also an opportunity for increased integration of all our programs so that each young person we support has access to any and all age-appropriate programs at Treehouse. We are already seeing a significant increase in the number of referrals across all our programs. As we continue to deepen our work across the state, we are excited to be better positioned to meet the needs of youth, regardless of their placement or how often they are moved.

Map of Washington state counties showing statewide expansion to all counties

Everyday Essentials and Experiences

In FY23, Treehouse provided 5,537 individual youth with access to free quality clothing and supplies as well as financial assistance to support them in exploring their interests and engaging in school and their community. We know that a youth disengaged from their school community is also highly correlated with being disengaged from their schoolwork.

The recent expansion of the Treehouse Store and funding for life essentials and experiences has been an important step to improving equitable access, one of our priorities. We heard from youth and caregivers how increased access to our services would better address their needs. We are listening and learning every day on how to improve our outreach and infrastructure with the goal of providing these services more effectively and efficiently statewide. And we are seeing the need for more donations and partnerships in these new communities to meet demand.

Educational Coaching and Networks

In addition to the Treehouse Store and financial support, Treehouse has three education programs geared to support youth in their education and individual pathways toward adulthood. We provide short-term services to remove educational barriers in Pre-K to 12th grade; long-term educational coaching and goal-setting for high school students; and transition planning and support for emerging adults.

Along with statewide expansion this past year, the focus of these three programs has been moving toward standardization, deeper integration and continuity of services for our youth. We began to serve some youth through multiple programs to meet their individual needs in a more holistic, integrated way. We also hired and adjusted our staffing to better serve the needs of Tribal youth, youth experiencing incarceration and highly mobile youth (youth facing housing or placement instability).

2,747 youth were enrolled in our Educational Advocacy, Graduation Success or Launch Success Programs. 86% of youth served by Educational Advocacy were connected to a supportive adult who will help advocate for them. 76% of Graduation Success participants set personally meaningful goals as they worked towards high school completion and beyond. 55% of Launch Success participants who requested financial assistance used the funding to pay for housing and other basic needs.

Participant Spotlight: Megan

“I went into foster care when I was a teenager, so the transition was really hard. One of the first places I went after I was placed with my new foster home was the Treehouse [Store]. I got to choose clothing, which being in high school and not having the latest and greatest was already difficult. Treehouse had an amazing selection for me to choose from.

“After graduating from high school, I came back to volunteer in the Treehouse Store. Seeing how much work goes into putting it on made me appreciate all Treehouse did for me.”

Megan, former Treehouse participant and volunteer

During her time in foster care, Megan received wraparound support from Treehouse, including education coaching, clothing and school supplies along with financial assistance for driver’s education and her prom ticket. Her favorite Treehouse memory is when her foster mom received tickets to Woodland Park Zoo — she loved seeing how excited her two young foster siblings were at the zoo.

Changing Outcomes as a Population

While each youth is unique in their journey and needs, there are common issues and barriers that exist for our youth as a population. In 2017, after a decade of advocating for changes to laws, Treehouse created a Policy & Advocacy team dedicated to transforming the child welfare and education systems at its root causes and at scale — beginning with legislative advocacy, policy change and strategic partnerships.

Legislative Wins

Our systems change work is driven by our learning and data from working directly with youth. The needs of the youth we serve and the experiences of our direct service staff inform our legislative agenda.

Your advocacy support made several wins happen:

  • $920,000 over two years to maintain four educational advocate staff positions who support highly-mobile youth experiencing night-to-night placements and address our waitlist
  • $2.21 million over two years to expand Graduation Success to middle school
  • Strengthening Project Education Impact (PEI) to develop recommendations for the state to improve institutional education, along with $150,000 to support direct costs like compensation for lived experts
  • Expanding Driver’s Assistance services to cover additional expenses, including the cost of car tab renewals, gas cards and comprehensive auto insurance for safer driving

Youth-Adult Partnership & First Treehouse Fellows

One of the significant changes at Treehouse this past year has been the launch of the Treehouse Fellowship as part of our Youth-Adult Partnership and systems change work. We know that young people are the experts of their own experience, and as such, they hold strategic insights and possess skills critical for solving the complex problems impacting them.

The Fellowship pilot hired eight young adults with lived experience in foster care and connected them to opportunities across Treehouse for professional development, networking and collaboration. The Fellows also provided consultation on organizational priorities at Treehouse, including strategic planning and legislative advocacy. This approach marks a critical shift and next step for Treehouse that not only better informs how we should partner and collaborate with young people with lived experience, but it gives them a seat at the table in shaping our work.

We are excited to welcome the next cohort of Fellows to be our partners as we work to change our systems for the better.

Image of the Treehouse fellows in front of the Treehouse at the Treehouse offices

Foster Care-to-Prison Pipeline

Since 2017, Treehouse has partnered with individuals impacted by foster care and the criminal legal system to understand why foster youth are disproportionately incarcerated. In 2022, in partnership with the Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) and the Raikes Foundation, we launched an initiative to disrupt the foster care-to-prison pipeline with new investments in systems change and policy reform as well as directly serving incarcerated youth who have experienced foster care.

As part of this initiative, Treehouse conducted participatory research with an intergenerational State-Raised/Lived-Expert Council of people impacted by foster care and incarceration. We needed to better understand the factors that funnel so many state dependent youth into the criminal legal system, how foster youth are inequitably impacted by the system and whether incarcerated youth are receiving the education they deserve before, during and after incarceration. What emerges is not only an in-depth report with a set of recommendations for needed reform, but our goal is that it will lead to a deeper community examination and collaboration to find solutions that lead to real systemic change.

Nearly 1 in 4 young adults are arrested within one year of aging out of foster care, approximately 40% of Washington's incarcerated youth have experienced foster care, more than 90% of youth in foster care with 5+ placements will become involved in the juvenile legal system, only 14% of dual-system involved youth graduate from high school

State-Raised/Lived-Expert Council

“The more placements, the more that you’re thrown around, especially when it’s like to shelters and group homes, and just places that aren’t very safe — I feel there’s a much higher chance for a young person to veer off to the wrong path and end up in prison or juvie [juvenile detention centers].”

“If your mom and dad is in the courtroom, you’re probably going to get released. If you’re in foster care, there’s a good chance that you’re going to get some kind of time.”

“I can’t remember any positive experiences or conditions in the outside world… state [dependent] girls, state [dependent] boys, you rely on each other, you teach each other survival skills.”

– Anonymous quotes from members of the State-Raised/Lived-Experts Council

Treehouse is partnering with a council of lived experts to better understand the experiences and challenges faced by individuals who have experienced both foster care and juvenile and adult legal systems, as well as gain insights and recommendations on what specific systemic reforms are necessary to disrupt the foster care-to-prison pipeline.


Partner Spotlight: Vadon Foundation

“Looking at the history of foster care in native communities, if youth in foster care have a less traumatic experience by intersecting with Treehouse, they will have better odds. Youth in the Tribal Engagement program still have a connection to their community, altering their life trajectory and the trajectory of their kids and grandkids, breaking the cycle of state-imposed trauma.

“We chose to invest in Treehouse because it plants a seed… Having partners like Treehouse who provide direct services as well as looking at systemic reforms… gives us the opportunity to have a ripple effect and hopefully encourages others to invest in native communities as well.”

– Dave LaSarte-Meeks, Executive Director of Vadon Foundation

The Vadon Foundation made a multi-year investment to launch Treehouse’s Tribal Engagement program in 2019. Over the last four years, with additional support and guidance from Vadon Foundation, Treehouse partnered with Tribal youth in foster care to provide culturally competent education coaching, access to cultural and extracurricular activities in their community and self-advocacy skill-building. Building trusting relationships with Tribal leaders, schools, social workers, caregivers and youth has been critical to the success of growing this program over the last four years.

Ways to Give & Get Involved

We are so impressed with all the incredible work and effort our youth, staff and community have put in this past fiscal year.

Our 2023 Impact Report details our current work that builds on 35 years of addressing academic and other essential needs of youth in foster care. We hope you are as proud as we are of what you helped accomplish.

Download the Full Report