09.01.2021

Foster Parent Becomes Education Advocate After Experiencing Treehouse’s ‘Magic’

By Desiree Lindsay, Treehouse Public Relations Coordinator

Pamela Holmes-Whyte, Treehouse Education Advocate

Pamela and her wife were at their wit’s end trying to advocate for the needs of their foster child within the education system. A year after becoming caregivers to a 9-year-old child, he still wasn’t receiving the equitable education he deserved and needed. They were frustrated and out of options.  

When they first became caregivers to their youth, they were introduced to Treehouse. “We had no support as kinship caregivers,” said Pamela. “Besides the department, Treehouse was the only other resource available to us.” 

Through the Treehouse Store, Pamela was able to get her youth new clothes, endless books and more. “It made him feel special, was an exciting outing and provided a great outlet as he settled in,” she said.  

Fast-forward a year, and the family was frustrated trying to get the school to accommodate his needs. The teacher’s approach to his struggles was compounding his trauma and he was falling further behind in his education. He needed to be in a different classroom but they couldn’t get the school on board.  

These two caregivers were no beginners in the foster care and education system. Pamela has had an extensive 20-year career teaching and consulting with families and educators on how to utilize a relationship-based developmental approach with children and her wife is a social worker.  The couple also has other children for whom they have advocated for in the school system. 

“We really thought we could navigate all of these issues, considering our background,” said Pamela. “We absolutely could not get anywhere with the school despite all of our knowledge and experience.” 

Hopeful, they reached out to Treehouse and were quickly set up with one of our Education Advocates.  

“The whole situation turned around so quickly once Treehouse got involved,” said Pamela. “Our advocate got him into a new class and things turned around at school. It was exactly what he needed. I was impressed and so grateful.” 

However, a year later, this family had to make another hopeful call to Treehouse because they hadn’t been able to get an IEP in place for their youth. This time Heidi Barden, another Treehouse Education Advocate, stepped in.  

Heidi Barden, Treehouse Education Advocate

“By some kind of magic, Heidi accomplished what we’d been trying to do in a year in just a few weeks,” she said. “There must have been so much advocating behind the scenes because to the caregivers it was invisible, yet her impact was immense.” 

Pamela and her wife have now adopted this youth but his relationship with Treehouse hasn’t ended. He has a volunteer tutor through Treehouse and he’s an active participant in our Graduation Success program.

“He’s still working through a lot but he’s resilient and having these relationships with Treehouse staff have made such a difference to his life. I have witnessed the magic Treehouse has on youth first-hand,” said Pamela. 

She wasn’t looking for a job, but when Pamela heard from a community friend that Treehouse was hiring, she couldn’t help but apply.  

Pamela is now one of Treehouse’s newest Education Advocates.  

“I realized that if parents who are well-experienced in the system, like my wife and I, couldn’t get our kid the resources he deserved, it’s hard to imagine anyone can on their own,” she said. 

“Just the idea that I could do for others what made a such a difference in my life and my child’s life – what absolute magic.” 

To learn more about our programs for youth experiencing foster care, visit treehouseforkids.org/our-services 

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About the Author

Desiree Lindsay is the Public Relations Coordinator at Treehouse. She focuses on elevating the voices and experiences of the youth, caregivers and communities we serve.


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