PORT ANGELES — Consistency is key for kids and families in foster care, according to April Thompson, marketing development manager for Olympic Angels, a Port Townsend-based non-profit organization.
“Having a healthy adult show up consistently with love and respect allows kids in foster care to be seen, accepted and be a kid. Not a foster kid, but just a kid with this adult that genuinely cares about them,” Thompson said during a presentation Wednesday to the Port Angeles Noon Rotary Club.
“Through this, the kids gain normalcy in an abnormal situation and the family gains support that helps them have a stable household,” Thompson said.
Thompson was joined by Olympic Angels Executive Director Morgan Hanna and Clallam County-based case worker Tasha Fitzgerald to present the work they do and their expansion into Clallam County.
“Olympic Angels matches volunteers or community organizations with children and families in the foster care system in our communities here on the peninsula,” Thompson said. “We are not affiliated with CPS (Child Protective Services), the state or any foster licensing agency. We are not political or religious, we’re just an organization working towards a mutual common good to make life better for kids in foster care.”
Hanna started Olympic Angels in late 2019 in Port Townsend, working under the Seattle Angels, a chapter of the Austin Angels program based in Austin, Texas. It is primarily funded with grants and individual donations.
Hanna was working as a guardian ad litem — someone appointed by the court to look out for the best interests of a child in legal situations — and followed statistically the futures of four girls who were in foster care.
One became pregnant when she was 19 and again at 21. One died from a drug overdose within one year of aging out of the system at 18. A third was trading sex for money and also ended up pregnant and using drugs. The fourth girl wound up in an intensive care unit three times within the first year of aging out of the system.
“I wanted to find a solution, and I knew I had to do more than donate clothes, so I gathered foster parents around and asked what was really happening and I stumbled on Austin Angels, and they developed these two amazing programs and they gave me the tools to start them here,” Hanna said.
Olympic Angels offers two programs called Love Box and Dare to Dream.
The former focuses on supporting and sustaining fostering families during which volunteers spend time building relationships with all the family members and delivering monthly personal care packages based on the family’s needs.
The program is designed to increase placement stability and support around the home. Volunteers are placed with families based on compatibility, scope of needs and location.
The Dare to Dream program focuses on building one-to-one relationships between youth ages 11-22 who are in foster care and adult mentors. These mentors serve as positive role models who meet with their youth twice a month to build relationships and empower them to accomplish their goals.
Thompson provided an example of a high school senior who participated in the mentorship program and graduated last spring.
“This particular week was monumental for her,” Thompson said. “In the course of that week, she had opened a bank account, turned 18, was granted extended foster care, graduated high school, was approved for rental assistance through OlyCap, and got the keys to her very first apartment. This was a big win for her and for us.”
Thompson noted that only 50 percent of kids in foster care graduate from high school and later said 97 percent of kids in foster care do not graduate from college.
“Just two weeks prior to that, the only things that were certain were that she was turning 18 and aging out of foster care,” Thompson said. “We know that one in five youth will become homeless when they age out of the system when they turn 18, but because of all the work and relationship building with her mentor, and because she had trusted adults consistently stepping up, this girl had options and her outcomes have been dramatically affected.”
For more information about the program, go to www.olympicangels.org.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.