Founded in 1988, Treehouse is Washington’s leading nonprofit organization addressing the academic and other essential support needs of youth in foster care. Treehouse helps more than 7,500 youth each year through programs that focus on their academic success, fulfill key material needs and provide important childhood experiences every child deserves. The organization envisions – and strives to create – a world where every child that has experienced foster care has the opportunities and support they need to pursue their dreams and become productive members of our community.
Treehouse, which has dramatically increased graduation rates for youth in foster care, is taking the lead on equity for our most vulnerable youth in Washington by sponsoring the Education Equity for Children and Youth in Foster Care Act (HB 2877 and SB 6223). The act would convene a workgroup of state agencies and nonprofit partners to create a plan to align programs, outcomes, accountability, policy and resources to collectively achieve educational equity goals.
“More than 9,000 children in foster care throughout Washington struggle socially, emotionally and academically as they battle trauma, loss and other changes in their lives that are out of their control. Fewer than 3 percent will earn a four-year college degree by their mid-20s,” said Dawn Rains, Chief Policy and Strategy Officer at Treehouse. “It’s even worse for youth of color who are disproportionately represented in foster care and achieve educational outcomes at significantly lower rates than their white peers.”
This is the first time in Treehouse’s history that the nonprofit is collaborating on the language of a bill with both nonprofit partners and state agencies, including the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Children’s Administration, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI),Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) and Department of Early Learning (DEL).
Here are the other state bills Treehouse is championing this state legislative session:
Eliminate Early Grade Suspensions – Pass SB 5155 to eliminate suspensions and expulsions for children in grades K-2.
Strengthen Extended Foster Care – Pass HB 2330 and SB 6222 to allow youth that are state dependent at age 18 to enroll in extended foster care up to age 21, and to enter and exit the program as needed.
Expand Access to Higher Education for Youth in Foster Care – Pass HB 2832 to expand eligibility for the Passport to College Promise program. Pass SB 6274 to create the Passport to Careers program to provide scholarships and wraparound supports for foster youth to attend college and complete apprenticeships.
End Youth Detention for Status Offenses – Pass SB 5596 to eliminate the use of detention for status offenses such as truancy and running away.
To advocate for youth in foster care: Visit Treehouse’s Advocacy Action Center atwww.treehouseforkids.org/advocate.