Local nonprofit triples in size in one year
BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON — Bellingham foster care nonprofit, Skookum Kids, announced today its gearing up to celebrate its third anniversary after a year of explosive growth.
Skookum hired 12 staff members in the last 12 months alone. The staff has worked with a team of over 100 volunteers to care for over 100 foster kids and license 25 foster parents since July 2017. Since opening its doors in July 2015, Skookum has gone from one half-time employee with a $109,000 budget to a team of eleven full-time and seven part-time employees with a $1.1 million budget.
“Skookum Kids is the embodiment of our community's desire to do foster care differently, and we are honored to steward that movement,” Ray Deck III, founding director of Skookum Kids, said. “And it's a good thing we've grown so fast. There is an immense need for this kind of common sense innovation.”
Skookum will celebrate its third anniversary with a block party on Sunday, July 8 from 4-7 p.m. The block party is free and open to the public and will include carnival games, a bouncy house, food trucks, local vendors, raffles and live music from folk band Kuinka. It will be located on Franklin Street outside Skookum-owned Perch & Play.
In October 2017, Skookum’s Founding Director Ray Deck III, received the Whatcom Top 7 Under 40 award by the Whatcom Young Professionals and Skookum Kids received the Nonprofit of the Year award by the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce. Also in November 2017, Skookum hosted its first official fundraiser and raised $28,000.
Skookum attributes its success to team of mission-focused and talented individuals and the support of Whatcom County.
“I could talk about this community all day,” Abby Smith, Skookum House program manager, said. “From volunteering to donating to service projects and advocacy, this community has been all-in from the very beginning. This community decided that the way things were going in foster care was unacceptable, and once there was an opportunity to fix it, everyone jumped right in.”
Skookum is supported by a network of 121 businesses, churches and other nonprofits, and about 100 regular individual givers.
Skookum opened its group home in July 2015. It was a response to what Skookum called the “72-hour Problem.” Social workers in Washington state have 72 hours to find suitable placements for kids entering foster care. But because of an acute shortage of foster parents in the state, social workers were hard-pressed to find appropriate long-term homes and kids ended up jumping between multiple foster homes or sleeping in hotels.
Skookum House was designed to “feel a little more like grandma’s house than a group home,” according to Skookum’s website. It’s staffed by a team of over 100 volunteers and a bunny that ensure kids have a fun and safe introduction to foster care. Four hundred kids have stayed at Skookum House.
Skookum has a reputation for getting things done. The goals outlined in its first five-year strategic plan were completed in the first 18 months of operation. Those goals included the establishment of a state-licensed Child Placing Agency (CPA) that licenses foster parents in Whatcom and Skagit county.
The CPA opened in December 2016 with a goal to license 200 foster parents by 2020. It’s right on track. Skookum has licensed 29 foster parents in Whatcom and Skagit County with at least a dozen more working to complete the licensing process.
The state legislature noticed the trend too. In February 2018, the Washington state legislature commissioned Skookum to run a pilot mentorship program for foster children. Skookum hired a program coordinator to oversee the program the same month.
Skookum Kids was founded in 2014 by Ray Deck III in Bellingham, Washington. This non-profit organization exists to repair the foster care system by eliminating the pain points that cause unnecessary stress for foster parents. It is staffed by eleven full-time, seven part-time employees and over 130 volunteers. For more information, visit their website at www.skookumkids.org.