Skookum Kids expanding free training to Ferndale

BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON-- Local nonprofit Skookum Kids is hosting the first Caregiver Core Training in the Ferndale area as part of an increased effort to reach community members in the greater Whatcom County region.

“The state has hosted Caregiver trainings in the past, but they’ve always been in Bellingham,” Skookum Kids’ director, Ray Deck, said. “They thought Bellingham was close enough, we disagree. The people in the greater Whatcom County area deserved one closer to them.”

The Caregiver Core Training is the first step in that licensing process for individuals and couples interested in being foster parents. It covers topics related to the foster care system, caring for children who’ve experienced trauma and the effects of foster care on the family as a whole.

“Many of the children that are removed from their family of origin reside outside Bellingham city-limits,” Ryan Burke, director of Skookum Parents, said. “By having more foster homes available in the county areas, it increases the chance that those children can be placed close to their communities, schools and places of worship, maintaining those vital relationships.”

Skookum’s Caregiver Core Training is open to anyone interested in being a foster parent, regardless of whether they are being licensed through the state or a private agency. It will be held at Redeemer Lutheran Church at 858 W. Smith Road. It’s spread out over a period of eight weeknights beginning Oct. 23-26. The class takes a week-long break and convenes again Nov. 6-9. The class times are 6-9 pm. Onsite childcare is provided.

According to the Child Well-Being Data Portal, there were 317 children in foster care in Whatcom County as of July 1, 2017. But, according to the Bellingham office of the Department of Social and Health Services, are only about 95 licensed foster homes and only a fraction of which are still taking children.

Since January 2017, Skookum Parents, Skookum Kids’ private Child Placing Agency (CPA), has licensed 12 families and with about 11 families in the licensing process. They hope to have 200 families licensed by the end of 2020.

The Caregiver Core Training is part of a larger effort to reach more community members in the greater Whatcom County region. That effort includes increased community networking, interest meetings and foster care trainings in the more rural regions of Whatcom County.

Skookum Kids was founded in 2015 by Ray Deck III in Bellingham, Washington. This non-profit organization is dedicated to repairing the foster care system by equipping those already affected by the system and educating those who are not. It is staffed by seven full-time and three part-time employees and over 100 volunteers. For more information, visit their website at www.skookumkids.org.

Climbing wall to raise awareness for foster care

BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON—A local café and playground, Perch and Play, is set to unveil a $25,000 augmented climbing wall at their grand re-opening on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, after a month-long renovation project. The wall is one of only five similar walls in the U.S. and the first on the West Coast, according to Augmented Climbing’s website. It was funded by a grant from First Federal Savings and Loan in Bellingham, Washington.

“I’m really excited to see how excited kids are when they see something built just for them,” Kyle Fugier, business manager for Perch and Play, said. “This is not a huge project that was built for some business to make a lot of money, we built this for the kids to enjoy.”

The wall is nine feet high and faces a computer that projects images that interact with climbers as they move. It projects games like Pong or puzzles that players must solve.

The wall is meant to engage older kids as Perch and Play previously catered to children 7 years and younger.

“I’m really excited about this wall because I feel like it combines the technological appeal that children want with being able to have that physical release of energy that they need,” Alex Straus, a play area host at Perch and Play, said.

Perch and Play is owned by Bellingham nonprofit Skookum Kids, an organization with a goal toward repairing the foster care system. Skookum recruits and licenses foster parents around Whatcom County and oversees a house open to foster children just entering care and who are waiting for their social workers homes for them.

Perch and Play closed for four weeks to complete their renovations. Also to be unveiled is an all-new menu and Lego room, among other improvements.  

Perch and Play’s grand re-opening will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 7. At 4 p.m., First Federal will present a $25,000 check to Skookum. Happy hour prices on drinks, including alcohol will be offered from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. At 5 p.m., the climbing wall will open for adults only. Those who wish to climb will not be charged extra and Perch and Play’s members will get to climb for free.

When asked about Perch and Play’s role within Skookum Kids, founder Ray Deck III explained he hoped to make Perch and Play the public face of Skookum and the de facto watering hole for foster parents.

“Our other programs are by necessity extremely private,” Deck said. “It can be tough when you can’t tell people where your office is to find the broad base of support that’s required to grow something. Perch and Play gives us a public front door.”

Skookum utilizes Perch and Play’s space to host services and events that don’t otherwise exist in Bellingham, like support groups and trainings, for foster parents.

Deck said he hoped to build all three of Skookum’s programs—Skookum House, Skookum Parents and Perch and Play—and then plant similar suites of programs in rural, chronically underserved communities so communities have the means to provide for their own children.

“That’s what Skookum does,” said Deck. “It becomes the rallying point for a community to do the work of caring for kids.”

Skookum Kids was founded in 2015 by Ray Deck III in Bellingham, Washington. This non-profit organization is dedicated to repairing the foster care system by equipping those already involved and educating those who are not. It is staffed by six full-time and two part-time employees and over 100 volunteers. For more information, visit their website at www.skookumkids.org.