Thanks to funding from Medina Foundation, BGCWA hosts its first “Serving Foster Youth” summit for Club leaders.
On Thursday, April 11th, Club professionals from across the state gathered in Bellevue for a day learning about Foster Youth experience in Washington state. Clubs across the state see and serve hundreds of foster youth, and a Clubhouse often becomes a welcome constant in the life of a young foster child frequently marked by upheaval, change and trauma.
A new 2019 partnership between Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington State Association and Medina Foundation created Serving Foster Youth initiative focused on providing dynamic educational and collaborative opportunities for WA Clubs to review their current practices in serving foster youth, acquire new skills and create strategies to more intentionally serve foster youth within Club walls. This collaboration was inspired by a current project underway at Boys & Girls Clubs of King County (BGCKC), “Follow the Child”. Staff and leadership throughout BGCKC are working tirelessly to ensure that foster youth have seamless transitions, and are well-supported and cared for, regardless which of the 30 King County Club locations they are accessing for afterschool programs.
The Follow the Child initiative is not just a new program we run in King County, it is a comprehensive and intentional focus on our practices, staff professional development, policies, technology infrastructure, and interaction with families, all of which are reviewed and enhanced to ensure that our Clubs are friendly, welcoming and inclusive to foster, kinship, reunified and adopted from foster care youth and their support systems.
Dorina Calderon-McHenry, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, Boys & Girls Clubs of King County.
BGCWA utilized Follow the Child as a starting off point to plan the 2019 statewide Serving Foster Youth initiative, and agreed to host Club-focused educational summits and provide implementation grants to its participants.
Summit presenters included community education staff from BGCWA’s newest partner, Coordinated Care of Washington; representatives from public partners, Department of Children, Youth and Families and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction; foster parents, and most importantly, voices of foster kids themselves, reflecting on their Boys & Girls Clubs experience. Jamerika Haynes, a motivational speaker, and foster youth advocate, owner of Clever Jam Communications, opened the summit by sharing about her time at Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, and how the Clubs were critical to having a constant positive and safe place for her to be after school.
For BGCWA’s outgoing Board Chair, Ron McHenry, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County, the Medina Foundation-BGCWA partnership is personally important.
Ron McHenry, BGCWA Immediate Past Chair, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County.
If I had known about Clubs as an adolescent, I would have been a member. Most of my early years, and from age 14 until graduation, I was a Foster Youth. Because of this, I remain especially sensitive to some of the challenges and obstacles faced, as well as have a keen understanding of when to celebrate. Through my position as President for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington State Association and Alliance, I have been blessed with a confluence of activity during my term that is certain to positively impact the lives of Foster Youth.
Serving as a catalyst for even deeper engagement for our Clubs, the Medina Foundation has provided resources for Clubs to share best practices, learn about new benchmarks in reaching Foster Youth, and build dialogue around the best ways to serve one of our most vulnerable populations. All of our Clubs in Washington are excited for this opportunity and quite thankful for the ability to focus thoughtfully on the topic. Because of the investment from the Medina Foundation, foster youth currently served, and many more that will be provided access through more outreach and targeted recruitment is certainly going to benefit and see what their #GreatFuture can hold.