Treehouse, a Seattle-based nonprofit which has dramatically increased graduation rates for youth in foster care, announced it will expand statewide over the next five years and has set a lofty new goal.
Treehouse plans by 2022 that youth in foster care across Washington state will graduate from high school at the same rate as their peers, with support and a plan to launch successfully into adulthood, according to a news release.
The nonprofit set a similar goal for King County five years ago, at a time when less than 40 percent of youth in foster care were earning diplomas. The goal was reached at the conclusion of the 2016-2017 school year.
Treehouse works with 38 students and has two education specialists in the Kent School District, according to a Treehouse spokesman.
The extended graduation rate for youth in Treehouse’s program, Graduation Success, is 89 percent – 7 percent higher than the rate for all students in Washington. The rate includes on-time and fifth-year graduates throughout King County and a growing number of school districts in Pierce and Spokane counties.
In stark contrast, the extended graduation rate for youth in foster care statewide is just 49 percent, according to Treehouse.
“We’re very proud of the progress our youth have made so far, but there is much more work to do throughout Washington,” said Janis Avery, CEO of Treehouse. “It took a major commitment from the community to meet the goal for King County, and we’ll need even more partners as we expand throughout the state. The most vulnerable youth are depending on us – all of us.”
The Graduation Success program has saturated the school districts in King County. In 2016, the program expanded outside the county for the first time into Tacoma and Spokane. Treehouse has doubled in size the past five years and currently has 120 employees. The organization plans to double again during the expansion.
Treehouse’s education specialists are typically based at schools and meet with students on a weekly basis. Part coach, part parent and frequently part best friend, they help students take charge of their own futures as they set goals, make plans and advocate for themselves.
Without a high school diploma and a plan for their future, youth in foster care experience disproportionately high rates of poverty, homelessness, incarceration, early parenting and substance abuse.
Founded in 1988, Treehouse considers itself Washington’s leading nonprofit organization addressing the academic and other essential support needs of youth in foster care. Treehouse helps more than 7,500 youth each year through programs that focus on their academic success, fulfill key material needs and provide important childhood experiences every child deserves. Learn more at treehouseforkids.org.