Community groups rally around children of local families in crisis

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

By Allison Barrett
More children were removed from their homes by Child Protective Services (CPS) in the 98133 zip code than in any other zip code in King County. 

According to a report produced by Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), 72 children were removed from the area, which spans a section of North Seattle and the city of Shoreline, in 2009.

As is true for many kids put into foster care, most of these children were placed in homes outside of the zip code, leaving behind the familiarity of their neighborhood, school and friends.

Children removed from their homes in 98133*
*Maps produced by data provided by DSHS. The locations for home removals and placements were adjusted to allow for confidentiality.
  • Blue square indicates homes where children were removed
  • Red dot indicates where children where placed
Of the 72 children removed from their homes in 98133, nine (12.5%) remained in the zip code.

Teachers, foster parents, heads of various local health and safety networks, CPS and DSHS administrators have joined together in monthly meetings at Parkwood Elementary School in Shoreline to build community solutions to this high rate of removal.

The alliance of so many community members and resources came about in an effort to “attack” the problem and “think about proactive steps that we could take collaboratively,” said Laura Ploudré, principal of Parkwood Elementary.

Ploudré recounts the story of a young boy who arrived at her school after being removed from his home located several hours away from Shoreline. In a meeting she had with the boy and his social worker a week or so after his arrival, the boy asked them: “please let my best friend know where I am. I didn’t have a chance to tell him where I went.”

That encounter provided the impetus for Ploudré to pursue better options for children brought into the foster care system.   “I want to see if I can prevent that from happening to a Parkwood student,” she said.

One of the options that coalition members are working to develop is something called “suitable adult placement.” Under Washington State law, children removed from their homes can be placed with a “suitable adult,” someone like a friend of the family or a teacher who has a relationship with the child and passes a background check. This temporary placement can give social workers extra time to find a longer-term foster home within the child’s school district. The child is given the chance to maintain some semblance of routine.

When kids are removed from their home, it’s just like cutting off their hand. Their whole lives get disrupted,” said Cathy Liu Scott, who attends the monthly meetings at Parkwood Elementary. “They rarely stay in the same school and the same neighborhood.”

Scott provides respite care for foster families, opening up her home to foster children on the weekends and offering foster parents a break from what can be a demanding commitment. Scott lives in Shoreline and the children who visit her sometimes come from foster homes as far away as Renton.

“Sometimes foster kids don’t have anything tying them to anybody or anything,” she said. She keeps a stash of disposable cameras ready for the kids who come to stay with her. They take pictures over the weekend and then she makes sure to get the photos developed before they leave.

“That way they can remember that they had this experience,” Scott said. “They can have something that connects themselves to their history.”

For those involved in the meetings at Parkwood Elementary, giving children who have been removed from their homes the chance to remain in the community is one component of a multi-pronged approach. Another important aspect involves finding ways to support families in crisis, either to help the family keep their child in the home, or to expedite the reunion between child and family.

The Parkwood Project plays a significant role in the collaborative effort. When families that fall within the catchment area for Parkwood Elementary School have been referred to CPS, The Parkwood Project can take their case.

Tamara Piwen heads the project as a “community navigator,” working to link families to the resources they need. Piwen has worked at the Center for Human Services in Shoreline for nine years and has a wide repertoire of social and health resources at her fingertips.

“Shoreline has really got a lot of resources for families,” she said. “In comparison to the big picture, Shoreline is probably one of the better resource areas.”

Piwen and her interns from the School of Social Work at the University of Washington help families develop and follow a plan, one that often includes court-mandated requirements.

“You’re trying to navigate families through systems and connect them to resources so they can keep their child, get their child back early, or just get their child back period,” she said.

The Parkwood Project has been operating since June of 2010. It’s still in its early stages, but Piwen believes they’ve seen heartening results.

“Just with the cases we’ve been involved with we’ve seen a big difference with families working really hard to keep their kids and feeling, I think, like they are being supported.”

Allison Barrett is a journalism student at the University of Washington and an intern with the ShorelineAreaNews.

5 comments:

Anonymous,  March 23, 2011 at 11:37 AM  

We have been continually impressed with Parkwood and Principal Ploudre. We have two children at Parkwood and one alumni. I am a foster mom myself, and it is great to see this kind of community support behind families in crisis. The only thing I would like to add, though, is that sometimes family reunification is not possible or best for the kids.

Anonymous,  March 23, 2011 at 12:36 PM  

Can the public attend the meetings and volunteer with this organization? I leave just south of Shoreline in Maple Leaf and would like to be involved.

Evan Smith,  March 24, 2011 at 7:17 AM  

One alumni?
No - One alumnus; two or more alumni.

Anonymous,  March 28, 2011 at 3:12 PM  

The public can attend the meetings. They are held every third friday at Parkwood Elementary.

Anonymous,  April 3, 2011 at 8:56 PM  

Don't forget to stop by the Parkwood Community Garden behind Vineyard Community Church at 14800 1st Ave NE in Shoreline. You can rent a plot for just $35/year or plant a row for the hungry in the Giving Garden and donate some of your produce to the local food bank. For more information, email Nancy: nancy@vineyard-cc.org or visit the garden website at parkwoodcommunitygarden.org.

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