Treehouse Brings Intersecting Agencies Together to Support Youth: ‘We Initiate the Conversations’

By Desiree Lindsay, Treehouse Marketing & Communications Consultant

Andi Ervin, Treehouse Education Advocate

When it comes to education there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach, particularly for youth experiencing additional barriers to success through no fault of their own. Finding ways to coordinate between support agencies has always been a challenge in successful implementation of unique plans for youth impacted by foster care.

“Treehouse’s Educational Advocacy Program works because we initiate the conversations, and we empower the intersecting agencies to create foundational support,” said Andi Ervin, Education Advocate at Treehouse.

The outcomes are often extremely powerful and meaningful for our youth.

Andi cited a recent example involving a 7-year-old boy. He had been placed in a relative’s care who relies heavily on daycare and school support to manage his schooling since she commutes to work full-time. With previous behavioral and learning concerns, the child is being evaluated for possible inclusion in special education. The pandemic has added some hurdles, leading to an unusually extensive evaluation period. In the meantime, he remains in general education where resources are limited.

“He has ADHD and doesn’t respond well to medication. The daycare couldn’t realistically meet his needs to keep him in his Zoom classes. He was falling behind and losing motivation to stay engaged, which ultimately was increasing behavioral concerns,” Andi said. “Recognizing the impact this was having on his education, Treehouse worked to build cooperation between all the involved support agencies, really appealing them to get involved in a unique way.”

Through many conversations evaluating the barriers and possible options, an inventive plan has been created. The school assigned a 1:1 para-professional to support this student to increase attention and engagement in remote instruction. The Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) has agreed to pay for his enrollment in the Y-Academy, which is physically located in the youth’s school. His presence in the school building allows for the 1:1 para to support him in-person, whereas previously, support was provided remotely. His school district agreed to pay for transportation to and from daycare.

The school uses a mix of group classes, small classes and individual learning sessions which has allowed him to receive the special care he requires. They’ve worked out a “token economy” system that rewards free time for good behavior and engagement. The impact this has had on him is profound. The behavior strategies used by the school are supported by the WISe Team and caregiver so that he can generalize the skills that are being supported within the school and Y-Academy settings.

“He’s engaged again, and his behavior has improved but more importantly, he’s loving going back to school again. This has done wonders for him,” Andi said. “It’s no small feat to get something like this approved. The school district, school principal, DCYF, his caregiver and his daycare, all had to prioritize his needs, offer alternatives and agree to this plan.”

“This has been such an inspirational case because all the involved systems came to the table eager and willing to be as strong and supportive as needed to ensure this child had everything he needed to succeed,” she added.

Learn more about Treehouse’s Educational Advocacy program at treehouseforkids.org/educational-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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