‘Be Willing to Take Some Risks’ and Other Ideas from Panel

By Trent Freeman, Treehouse Marketing and Communications

Treehouse’s Dawn Rains joined a prestigious panel of experts Wednesday to talk about the well-being of children in foster care. Hosted by Amara, a nonprofit devoted to ensuring that every child in foster care has the love, support and comfort of a committed family, the discussion offered a chance to hear directly from senior leaders as they shared ideas for Amara to build on its already outstanding success. Megan Walton, Amara’s Chief Operating Officer, moderated.

Dawn Rains, Chief Policy and Strategy Officer at Treehouse

Rains talked about providing training and support to better equip foster and adoptive parents as they attend to the social, emotional and developmental needs of youth in foster care.

“I am a former foster parent and I had an experience where that first night in a car on the way home, I did not know how to answer a three-year-old’s question about what was happening to him,” Rains said. “I was not prepared to help them emotionally navigate. I knew what my job was, but I was heartbroken I didn’t know how to answer that question.” She also encouraged Amara to “find the thing that only Amara can do. Build on your expertise and strengths. Understand where you fit into the ecosystem of available supports and services.” 

Justice Bobbe J. Bridge, Former Associate Justice of the Washington Supreme Court and Founding President/CEO for the Center for Children & Youth Justice

Bridge focused on the value of formalizing relationships with partners.

“Certainly from the standpoint of the work we do at CCYJ, there is nothing we do alone,” Bridge said. “There is no project that we manage that does not incorporate public sector, private sector, individuals, nonprofits, for profits, etc. And it makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.”

Ruth Kagi, State Representative for the 32nd Legislative District and Chair for the Early Learning and Human Services Committee in the House

Kagi thanked Amara for supporting the proposed Department of Children Youth and Families.

“I do think that is one major step forward we can take to assure well-being is the focus of our agency efforts—to support kids staying in their homes, to support parents so they can keep children in their homes, to assure that our most vulnerable children get high-quality early learning and prevention services right away when they’re needed,” Kagi said. “And that when children are in care, we really have the resources and focus to assure well-being is taken care of, as well as safety and permanency which will always remain the top two (state priorities).”

Jennifer Strus, Children’s Administration Assistant Secretary

Strus discussed a project in Vancouver in which foster parents mentor the biological parents.

“That can be very successful particularly if you’re transitioning back the child to be reunified with the biological parent,” Strus said. “It’s on the list of the great things we would like to do, and I think that would be tremendously helpful for the well-being of kids—keeping them in their own schools if possible. Any of their connections that you can keep while the kid is in foster care or in relative care are tremendously helpful.”

Laurie Lippold, Director of Public Policy at Partners for Our Children

Lippold recalled when Amara was known as Medina Children’s Services and their willingness to be “cutting edge.”

“Medina was the first agency in the state that was willing to place foster children with same-sex couples or a gay or lesbian individual. I think many of us now would say: ‘So?’ At that point in time, there were different requirements where gay individuals or couples had to have psychological evaluations. Others becoming foster parents did not. And so things have changed,” Lippold said. “Medina/Amara was very willing to be out there and try something they knew was right and would benefit children and youth. And so I would say continue to look at what others aren’t willing to do. Be willing to take some risks.”

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About the Author

Trent Freeman is the Associate Director of Marketing & Communications at Treehouse.

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