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May 2002Vol. 3, No. 4Treehouse Strives to Improve the Quality of Life for Foster Children

Based in Seattle, Washington, an organization called Treehouse works to improve the lives of abused and neglected children in small ways that make a big difference.

Treehouse was founded 15 years ago by a group of King County social workers to assist children in foster care by funding the "extras" that many families routinely provide for their children. Treehouse activities include the following:

  • Little Wishes. Treehouse provides the funds to grant foster children's wishes for such things as music and dance lessons, martial arts classes, memberships in Scouts, youth group trips, sports teams, and other activities. Treehouse granted over 1,910 such wishes to 936 children in 2001. According to Paige Ruble, Treehouse Program Manager, the Little Wishes program fulfills a wide variety of requests. Ruble cited a class trip to Ecuador for a youth studying Spanish at an alternative school, Native American dance outfits, equipment for a Special Olympics participant, and a tour of Historically Black Colleges and Universities for a group of teens pursuing post-secondary education.
  • Educational Support. Treehouse tutors assist many Seattle and Bellevue area foster children, providing them extra help so that they don't fall behind other children who may have had advantages such as having attended preschool or having been read to from an early age. Currently Treehouse has 14 full-time, paid tutors placed in 7 Seattle schools, each working with about a dozen students. Another program, "Coaching to College," recruits volunteers to advise foster care youth on education and training opportunities beyond high school.
  • Camp. Treehouse provides funding to send foster children to the summer camps of their choice. Approximately 900 foster children were sent by Treehouse to camp last summer.
  • Wearhouse. Since foster families only receive $100 annually from Washington State to spend on clothing for foster kids, Treehouse also supports foster families through its retail-like "Wearhouse." Corporations, organizations, and individuals donate new and gently used items. These include clothing, toys, school supplies, books, and hygiene items, which are given to foster children for free.

In addition to these core activities, Treehouse partners with other agencies that work to brighten the lives of foster children. One non-profit, known as the Brighter Birthday Club, finds local donors to help fulfill a foster child's birthday wish list. Treehouse also joined forces with the Division of Child and Family Services, YMCA Independent Living Program, and Casey Family Programs to help prepare foster youth for the workplace. Known as Project B.E.T.A. (Beginning Employment and Training for Adulthood), it provides 30 hours of job training followed by 12 weeks of mentored employment at the Treehouse Warehouse.

By responding to individual material, educational, and recreational needs, Treehouse helps to break the cycle of hopelessness, lack of self esteem, poverty, abuse, and neglect that may confront the children that pass through its doors.

Contact information:
Paige A. Ruble
Treehouse Program Manager
655 S. Orcas St.
Suite 220
Seattle, WA 98108
Phone: 206-767-7000 ext. 207