Skookum Kids

People First.

Mission Second.


Skookum Kids is built around a single big idea: that if we take great care of people, the mission will take care of itself. So we work really hard to make this a delightful place to volunteer and be a foster parent. We believe in health for all, meaning that no person should ever have to sacrifice their own health to serve kids. That's not to say we don't work hard (because believe me, we do), but that healthy, happy, well-supported people get more done.


In early 2013 a naive young man named Ray visited a neighborhood association meeting and just happened to sit at the same table with a career social worker. They talked about the state of child welfare in the region and about how some simple, common sense solutions would go a long way to improving the lives of children, foster parents, and social workers alike. That young man and social worker each invited a few friends to meet at a coffee shop and discuss those ideas the following week. And at that coffeeshop, Skookum Kids was born. Our first program—Skookum House, in which we care for children new to foster care—opened in mid-2014. Since then, the organization has grown in both depth and breadth, doubling in size by every major metric each year of its early history. 


Get in touch

We would love nothing more than to talk with you about foster care, the reforms we aspire to, or how you can get involved.



Key Leaders


Founding Director

Ray Deck III

A serial intrapreneur, Ray Deck III has a decade of experience inciting change from within complex organizations. He leads Skookum Kids, a not-for-profit that aspires to nothing less than total reform of the foster care system.

In addition to his work at Skookum, he serves as Vice Chair of the Foster Care Division at the Washington Association of Children Youth & Families, as a member of the Child Welfare Advocacy Coalition, and on the Children's Administration Foster Parent Team.

When he’s not wrestling with bureaucracy, you can find him running, surfing, or backpacking through the Cascades. But you should go look for him. He has a terrible sense of direction, and is probably lost.




Program Manager: Volunteer-Centric Programs

Abby Smith

After graduating from Seattle Pacific University, Abby returned to Bellingham to pursue her passion for trouble makers. She leads a team of 4 staff and 100+ volunteers to care for children in their most vulnerable days at Skookum House, and to give foster parents some well-deserved time off in the Skookum Mentors and Foster Family Night Out programs.

When she's not wrangling children and volunteers, you can find her searching for cheap international flights, hidden waterfalls, and her car keys.



Program Manager: Foster Care

Ryan Burke

Ryan Burke came to Skookum after 14 years as a social worker with the Department of Health and Social Services. He has a B.A. in psychology and social sciences from Western Washington University and a M.S.W. from Eastern Washington University.

He is a devoted husband and proud father of two adopted girls. He and his wife have been foster parents since 2012. Ryan is passionate about making the foster care experience as easy as possible and pursues that passion as the program manager of Skookum Parents where he leads a team of social workers and support staff. 

When he is not meeting with foster parents or memorizing sections of the WAC, Ryan can be found happily goofing off with his children or playing cribbage with his wife.



Operations Manager

Gina Russell

Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, Gina has business operations in her blood.

After college in Oregon and finishing right here at WWU, Gina had a very successful career in the food and service industry. As the previous owner two successful businesses and love of children, she comes to Skookum Kids as the operations manager.

A mom of two active girls she is often on the field, on the mountain or on her pedaling amongst the trees. If you would like to reach out, send an email because she has most likely lost her phone.


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