Longtime Board Member Linda Hunter Reflects on Journey, Remaining Work for Treehouse

By Desiree Lindsay, Treehouse Marketing & Communications Consultant

Treehouse Board Member Linda Hunter

In 2010, the statewide foster care graduation rate was less than 40 percent compared to more than 70 percent for the general population. Linda Hunter, a current Treehouse Board member, was Board Chair from 2010-2012.

“We knew creating a program to support youth in foster care to graduate high school absolutely had to be done. This was just non-negotiable,” said Linda, who has been volunteering with Treehouse for more than 15 years. “We spent two years working on developing a model program, Graduation Success, and we carefully set—for the first time—measurable goals to assess the program’s effectiveness. We committed to being transparent and accountable.

“Over the years we developed, commenced and improved programs, while expanding across the state,” she added. “I’m continually struck by Treehouse’s impact and significance to the community.”

Linda beamed as she emphasized how critical Treehouse’s work is to reducing barriers.

“There are so many systems impacting youth experiencing foster care—child welfare, education, health and judicial—with significant equity disparities experienced by our youth of color,” she said. “Treehouse is successful because they continually evolve as an organization, always measuring and improving their programs. They’re constantly learning and they do so with a sense of urgency.”

A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer for seven years, Linda has seen firsthand the difference that Treehouse makes for individual youth.

“The work is far from done,” she said. “Our goals of racial equity, graduation and transitioning youth to adulthood are only fully achievable when the important work with youth is complemented by significant systems change. There really isn’t anyone else in the state besides Treehouse filling these roles.”

She remains committed to expanding Graduation Success so every youth experiencing foster care statewide has access to this partnership and support.

“Today Treehouse is stronger and more critical to our youth and young adults than ever before,” Linda said. “The numbers speak for themselves.”

In 2019, the statewide graduation for all youth in foster care was up to 46.2% and has continued to increase. This past school year, it was 50.4%. Approximately 75% of youth who stick with Treehouse’s program for a fifth year or more complete high school.

Linda believes increased philanthropic and public funding are key to changing the long-term trajectory of our communities.

Linda Hunter and the Treehouse Policy Team during the 2019 Legislative Session in Olympia, Washington.

“We’re in the middle of a critical legislative session,” she said. “There are still more than 600 youth experiencing foster care in Washington without access to Graduation Success, and we’re calling on communities all over the state to rally support.”

Treehouse is asking the Washington State Legislature to expand funding for Graduation Success by $5 million. For anyone who wants to get involved, Treehouse has an extremely user-friendly Advocacy Action Center, and we encourage community members to sign up.

“The impact we can have is transformational, but we can’t do it alone,” Linda said.

Join our Advocacy Action Center at treehouseforkids.org/advocacy.

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About the Author

Desiree Lindsay is the Marketing and Communications Consultant at Treehouse, where she elevates the voices and experiences of the youth we serve.

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