A Foster Care Program
The United States has about 408,500 children in foster care, with 48 percent of these children placed in non-relative foster homes, 26 percent - in relative foster homes, 5 percent - upon condition of trial home visits. In addition, 6 percent of such children are in group homes, 4 percent stay in pre-adoptive homes, 1 percent is under supervised independent living whereas 2 percent had run away from foster homes. Just like their counterparts in non-foster homes, the behavioral and emotional needs of foster children are to be satisfied in order to provide them with equal opportunities and equal chances of succeeding later in life. In this regard, the Treehouse Foster Care Program was founded to address the educational and emotional needs of the foster children. The goal of this paper is to provide a description of the program, including its nature and provision of services offered, the funding sources, staffing, and qualification of employees. The paper also looks at the history of the program, its strengths and limitations, as well as relationship of the program to existing policy and service landscape for the society.
Information relating to the Treehouse Foster Care Program was gathered mainly through the organization's official website. In addition, a complementary telephone interview was conducted with the Chief Executive Officer of the organization.
Description of the Program
The mission of the Treehouse Foster Care Program is to ensure that each child who has faced a parenting crisis receives support and opportunities he/she requires in order to accomplish the dreams and become a productive member of respective society (Treehouse, 2014). The values that guide the Foster Care Program by Treehouse include active advocating for children, compassionate service characterized by respect and dignity in all of the organization's interactions, trustworthiness and accountability, as well as innovation through creating new opportunities for children in foster care.
Breadth of Services
With regard to the provision of services, Treehouse boasts to be the only agency operating in the King County that offers academic and essential support for youth under foster care in order to help them have the same graduation rates when compared to their peers. With respect to essential support, there is no doubt that children and young people require several things in order to grow into people they dream to be. As a result, the caregivers are supposed to offer support and love (Treehouse, 2014). Treehouse, in turn, supplements the caregivers by offering certain essentials, particularly the basic support, and satisfying the needs that are required by children to take part in crucial childhood experiences. The organization makes sure that youth in foster care can access the resources that are required to boost their confidence and prepare them for learning at school. Treehouse provides essential support to children through paying for extracurricular activities that are crucial for the educational excellence, social and emotional development, funding fun activities in and out of school, paying for the experiences that may help them feel confident and take part in academic life to full extent, as well as providing the caregivers with free shoes, clothing, and school equipment, among many other elements (Treehouse, 2014).
With respect to providing academic support, Treehouse offers initiatives that are aimed at assisting the foster children to succeed academically and ensure that these young individuals are provided with the effective support systems and resources they need, to graduate successfully from the high school. In order to achieve these aims, Treehouse collaborates with the foster parents, social work practitioners, teachers, and counselors. Other types of support provided by Treehouse include funding colleges for foster children, and providing the educational advocacy program, which focuses on the identification and elimination of the barriers in the education system that are likely to hamper the academic excellence of young people (Treehouse, 2014).
Treehouse provides support to youth in foster care using an integrated and evidence-based service delivery model. Its foster care program offers educational and material support, as well as unique opportunities for youth to take part in extra-curricular activities. It cooperates with other organizations and legislators in designing and enacting the laws that can help in addressing the needs of foster children, ensuring support, and eliminating any barriers to their academic success. The figure below shows a model of the services provided by Treehouse (Treehouse, 2014).
Treehouse primarily relies on donations to support its program. Some of its sponsors include AT&T, One Eighty Foundation, The Seattle Times, Price Waterhouse Coopers, United Way, Alive and Well, Downtown Seattle Association, and Alpha Gamma Delta; these organizations have donated more than $ 50,000 each (Treehouse, 2014). The sponsors that have donated about $ 10,000-24,000 include Laird Norton Company, Expedia, Hasbro, Carter Subaru, Fusion Beads, Weisman Design Group, Starbucks, Paracle, Northern Trust, Cobalt Group, Carillon Properties, and Dorsey and Whitney. Other in-kind supporters include KIRO FM, Deloitte, and Revel (Treehouse, 2014). These sponsors invest in separate events, initiatives, and programs spearheaded by Treehouse (Treehouse, 2014). During the 2013 financial year, the grants and contributions accounted for 77 percent of the organization's revenue; in-kind contributions accounted for 15 percent whereas contract for services accounted for 8 percent (Treehouse, 2014). Apart from sponsors, Treehouse also relies on volunteers in undertaking its operations (Treehouse, 2014).
Staffing and Qualifications of Staff
The organizational structure of Treehouse comprises the board of directors, staff, and the young professional board. The board of directors consists of the chair, past chair, treasurer, secretary, and other members representing the partners and sponsors of Treehouse. The chair, Juli Farrris, is a litigator who specializes in securities and banking litigation (Treehouse, 2014). Alexandra Brookshire, the past chair, is a legal practitioner who has worked in several organizations including not-for-profit and for-profit entities. The treasurer, Amy Mullins, is a private banking relationship manager who is currently working with the Columbia Bank's Wealth Management group. Mullins is a trusted advisor who cooperates with external and internal partners in coming up with effective financial solutions for the businesses. Davis has a formal training in accountancy (Treehouse, 2014).
The staff at Treehouse comprises the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Director of Finance and Administration, Director of Development, and senior managers of various departments including the education program services, human resources, education program operations, and impact management, as well as marketing and communications. The CEO, Janis Avery, has been the leader of the organization since 1995, and has dedicated most of her time to promoting educational equity for youth in foster care using avenues such as deployment of resources, encouraging community collaboration, promoting accountability, and advocating for a change in the education sector (Treehouse, 2014). Janis has a Master's degree in social work and has a life goal of ensuring that the lives of the foster care children improve, using her position of a social worker, as well as a foster parent. The Chief Operating Officer, Dawn Rains acts as the organization's operational and strategic leader, particularly with respect to marketing and programs. She has been working for the organization since 2009. She has an experience of two decades in the management of non-profit organizations and has a Master's degree in public administration. The Director of Finance and Administration, Darrell Powell, has at least 20 years' experience in business and finance and has a Master's degree in business administration and accounting (Treehouse, 2014). The Director of Development, Jessica Ross offers strategic direction and leadership with regard to fundraising, as well as the volunteer engagement initiatives at the organization. Ross has a Master's degree in non-profit leadership.
History of the Program
Treehouse was founded in 1988 by the workers of the Department of Social and Health Services who recognized the deficiency that the foster care children usually faced. In order to offer at least minor help to these children, the workers held different public events such as car washes and bake sales. Following the increasing support from the sponsors and caring partners, today, Treehouse offers school equipment, toys, and clothes; the organization ensures that children in foster care can access crucial extra-curricular activities, as well as community resources (Treehouse, 2014). Currently, Treehouse is implementing initiatives aimed at assisting the foster youth in graduating from the high school just as their peers. A timeline of Treehouse reveals that after its establishment in 1988, the Little Wishes program was founded in 1989; the scholarship program was established in 1990, followed by the introduction of the name Treehouse in 1992 (Treehouse, 2014). At that time, Treehouse was serving about 600 children in foster care on a yearly basis. As of 2004, Treehouse was serving 2800 children in foster care yearly. The 2006 saw the expansion of the expansion advocacy to the entire state. As of 2012, Treehouse was offering five essential and academic programs, which included Holiday Magic, the Wearhouse, Little Wishes, Graduation Success, and Educational Advocacy. In addition, Treehouse had grown to serve about 6000 foster children by the end of 2012 (Treehouse, 2014).
Strengths and Limitations of the Program
The first strength of Treehouse is that it has a highly qualified and competent staff capable of ensuring that the organization achieves its goals and mission. An analysis of the staff points out that most employees have qualifications in either social work or management of non-profit organizations. In addition, the staff has vast experience in their respective fields, which further improves their competency in executing the organizational tasks. The second strength of the program relates to the management of the organization. It is evident that Treehouse employs an organizational structure that is similar to the organizational structure used in corporations, which comprises the board of directors and staff. This feature strengthens the governance of the organization, which is further enhanced by the fact that none of the staff members is in the Board of Directors, implying that the conflicts of interests is unlikely within the organization. The evidence of this strengthened internal control is the fact that Treehouse submits annual reports and financials to various stakeholders as a demonstration of integrity and accountability. The third strength of the organization relates to the vast network with regard to its sponsors and partners. Treehouse boasts of a vast donor-pool, which perhaps has played a pivotal role in ensuring the success of the organization since its establishment, as well as the stability of its operations. Lastly, the strength of Treehouse is the vast portfolio of its services. It is evident that Treehouse offers a comprehensive support that deals with almost every aspect of foster care for children. It can be argued that this vast service portfolio has made Treehouse appealing, and allowed to attract numerous sponsors.
Regardless of the above strengths, Treehouse still has a number of limitations. The first limitation is that the organization significantly depends on its sponsors and partners as almost only source of revenue. As mentioned earlier, donors and sponsors (external sources) account for about 77 percent of the organization's revenue in the form of grants and contributions (Treehouse, 2014). Treehouse should devise the mechanisms to reduce its reliance on the external sources of revenue and strengthen its internal revenue-generation capacity such as contract for services, which currently account for only 8 percent of the organization's revenue.
Relationship of the Program to Existing Policy and Service Landscape for the Population
The Treehouse foster program seeks to address a gap in the law with regard to the foster care in the United States. Through the foster care laws, the federal government determines policies, issues regulations, and provides the funding help to states, which in turn, have the responsibility to develop, administer, and operate the child welfare programs (U. S. General Accounting Office, 2014). Laws considering the foster care in the United States have placed a lot of emphasis on the foster parents' rights, birth parents' rights, fostering collaboration between agencies, issuing guidelines for the adoption of children, and reasons for termination of the parental rights (Pecora, Whittaker, Maluccio, & Barth, 2012). In addition, the foster care laws underline the importance of balance between parents' and foster children's rights. There is little emphasis on the academic development and essential support for foster children, and it is a gap that Treehouse seeks to address. The life skills development has been acknowledged crucial for children in foster care (Solander, 2013). Nevertheless, there is modest support provided to foster children in education and life skills training. As a result, Treehouse has established its niche as a foster care program that places emphasis on the educational needs and support for the foster children.
The main objective of Treehouse Foster Care Program is ensuring that children facing the parenting crisis receive support and opportunities that they may need in order to realize their dreams. The services offered by Treehouse include academic and essential support that aims at ensuring that the foster youth have the equal chances and opportunities to succeed in life with their non-foster counterparts. The organization primarily draws its funding from donations and relies on volunteers to carry out some of its initiatives. The strengths of the Treehouse Foster Care Program include highly qualified and competent staff, governance structure of the organization resulting in strong internal control, wide network of partners and sponsors, and vast services portfolio. The main limitation of the Treehouse Foster Care Program is that the organization relies significantly on the partners and sponsors in financing its operation.