Skookum releases legislative agenda, requests to be case study
BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON — Skookum Kids, a Bellingham-based nonprofit, released its first legislative agenda Monday. The document calls for increased cooperation in data collection between Washington State and independent service providers like Skookum House. The information gathered could prove that children who stay in emergency shelters like Skookum’s, experience more stable placements and spend less time in foster care than children who are placed directly in a foster home.
Skookum requests the legislature instruct the Institute for Public Policy to study questions like: How many times are children moved after staying in Skookum House? How long do they stay in foster care after they leave Skookum House?
The data is already tracked by the state, but has yet to be analyzed.
“Where do children go after they stay at Skookum House or one of our sister programs?” Ray Deck, executive director of Skookum Kids, said. “How does their time with us impact their whole foster care experience? These are the questions we are asking ourselves. The answers are in the data already collected by the Division of Children Youth and Families. We just need someone to look it up and publish what they find, so that we can make data-informed decisions about the shape and nature of our programs.”
In Washington state, there are about twice as many foster children as there are foster homes available. This severe shortage means siblings are split, social workers are responsible for caring for kids in government offices or hotel rooms until placements are found, and foster homes aren’t always the right fit.
Skookum’s emergency shelter, Skookum House, was created in response to this crisis.
Skookum House, is a volunteer-staffed home that provides care for children in their first 72-hours (excluding weekends and holidays) of foster care. Children receive regular meals, clothes, medical care, a safe space to play and 24/7 attention from a team of trained volunteers. Those few days give social workers time to find an appropriate long-term placement and gives foster parents time to prepare for a new arrival. To date 450 children have spent some time at Skookum House.
Skookum is set to put its legislative agenda in front of state legislators in the 2019 session. Skookum’s Policy Coordinator, Mikaela Chandler, has already conducted meetings with candidates in the 40th and 42nd districts about the importance of the data. She plans on connecting with the representatives that sponsored the initial bill that allowed emergency shelters like Skookum House to begin operation in 2013.
“The legislation has the power to direct an agency to study the data,” said Chandler. “So we’ll start with them.”
Skookum Kids was founded in 2014 by Ray Deck III in Bellingham, Washington. It exists to repair the foster care system by eliminating the pain points that make life unnecessarily difficult for foster parents and social workers. It is staffed by 12 full-time, eight part-time employees and over 130 volunteers. For more information, visit their website at www.skookumkids.org.