Treehouse Celebrates National Social Work Month

By Desiree Lindsay, Treehouse Public Relations Coordinator

March is National Social Work Month and brings forth an opportunity to appreciate and publicly recognize a group of dedicated professionals who are vital for the health, safety and wellbeing of the youth we serve at Treehouse—child and youth social workers.

As an organization devoted to equitable education, cultivation of experiences and success for youth experiencing foster care, we work in tandem with local and statewide child welfare systems. Anyone who works tirelessly to support youth are key partners for Treehouse, and we are thankful for their perseverance, especially after such a challenging year.

As long-term case management worker, Jarel Sanders is currently a social service specialist at the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) in Tacoma.

“I love being a part of a great system,” Jarel said. “Youth really need their own secure network of adults they trust. This support helps our kids blossom and makes the tough work well worth it.”

From family visitation, educational demands, housing and basic needs security, the work can be emotionally taxing. The pandemic has deepened the needs of youth on Jarel’s caseload.

Fortunately, the support Treehouse provides those same youth allows him some reprieve.

“More than anything, when my kids are partnered with Treehouse, it really allows me to take a step back, breath and focus on housing and family services, because I know their education plans are in good hands,” Jarel said. “There’s so much bureaucracy when it comes to developing IEP plans and getting them engaged in school again. Treehouse is really great at taking charge of this aspect and doing the leg work.”

Building Strong Networks

Jarel is passionate about building strong networks for youth and developing good relationships with adults who encourage them through positive reinforcement and trauma-informed practices.

Jarel Sanders

“It takes a lot of buy-in for youth to accept services. The more positive experiences with support services they have, the more likely they are to explore other options that might be available to them,” Jarel said. “A lot of times, they may lose out on these services because of behavior or attention issues, and that ignores the root of the problem. We need to get to the roots, and we can only do that through foundational relationships.”

Jarel has seen first-hand how Treehouse’s programs build this trust with the youth we support.

“I have several peers who have worked at Treehouse, and I know they create those really close connections with their kids,” Jarel said. “Social workers can’t always show up to their school meetings. When youth have an advocate from Treehouse, they feel secure and supported.”

Investing in Strong Networks

Treehouse partners with more than 7,800 youth impacted by foster care across all of our programs. At any given time, there are between 9,000 and 10,000 youth in care in Washington State.

Jarel hopes that one day, Treehouse services will be available to all his youth.

“We outsource all of our educational advocacy to Treehouse when they’re available in that area, and they are amazing advocates,” he said. “When our youth are partnered with Treehouse, the results are very powerful.”

The pandemic has shined a light on the areas where growth and investment are deeply needed. Jarel typically should be supervising no more than 18 youth. He has about 22 right now, and many colleagues may have more than that.

“I believe Washington state is a shining example of a good child welfare system, but there is so much more to do,” Jarel said. “Intersecting, supportive relationships with other agencies like Treehouse provide the best opportunities for success within our communities.”

Treehouse extends its gratitude to everyone who has continued with the powerful work of supporting youth and young adults, despite the global traumas we’ve all endured. Together, we’re creating better systems that support everyone impacted by foster care as they enjoy being kids and grow into successful adults—with futures they select for themselves.

To learn more about how to extend Treehouse services statewide, visit our Advocacy Action Center at: treehouseforkids.org/advocacy

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About the Author

Desiree Lindsay is the Public Relations Coordinator at Treehouse, where she elevates the voices and experiences of the youth we serve.

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