Thursday, June 30, 2011

Y's Words: Special Announcement

If it is true that challenges bring opportunities, then I can honestly say that ywca clark county has been teeming with opportunities this year! Like most organizations, the ywca has been dramatically impacted by the economic downturn. An increase in need for services and decrease in overall funding over the past two years has caused financial stress to ywca clark county. This imbalance of supply and demand has caused us to reexamine the services we provide and the way we provide them.

Over the last 12 months, our Board of Directors and lead staff have scrutinized our budget and programs like never before. The result was to trim our expenses by $437,000. As a service-oriented organization, nearly all budgetary trimming came in the form of staff hours, and since September of last year, six positions have been eliminated and/or not replaced and 36 positions have been reduced leaving only half of our staff working full-time.

Because ywca clark county provides life-saving services to people in crisis, the reduction in staff hours has had a profound effect on the way staff do their jobs. The reduced hours put many staff in the uncomfortable position of having to deny services to people in need simply because their hours had been spent for the week. Such expectations are neither healthy nor realistic for anybody.

So, we were faced with another big challenge: staff have limited hours but the community has limitless needs. How were we to create healthy boundaries for everyone? After much discussion, the solution became clear: close the Community Office on Fridays. By closing the office, staff would not be challenged to work more than their allotted hours and individuals in crisis would not wind up waiting in the lobby for an advocate to help.

Starting July 11th, 2011, the ywca’s Community Office will have new hours of operation. We will be open to the public Monday through Thursday from 7:30 am – 5:30 pm and closed on Fridays. Many programs will continue to be active on Fridays and available for emergency services and pre-scheduled appointments. Additionally, our SafeChoice Shelter will continue to operate 24 hours per day, 7 days per week as will our sexual assault and domestic violence crisis hotline. We believe this is the best way to address the needs of the community while respecting our extraordinary staff.

The ywca clark county continues to be a strong organization – both idealistic and practical at the same time. Though we may fantasize about the day when we have too much funding or, better yet, too little need for services, we will continue to do our best work, serve as many people, with the resources we are so grateful to have.

Thank you for your continued support of our mission. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Strong Along. Fearless Together.

Sherri Bennett
Executive Director

Local Giving Circle Helps Survivors Escape Domestic Violence

On May 26th, 2011, ywca clark county’s SafeChoice Program was awarded $5,000 from the Nonprofit Network Giving Circle to fund the Transportation for Survivors Escaping Domestic Violence project. This grant will help approximately 300 residents of the SafeChoice shelter meet urgent transportation needs such as getting to or from emergency rooms and urgent care clinics as well as searching for permanent housing, applying for jobs, taking children to school/daycare, and meeting other basic needs.

When survivors of domestic violence flee their abuser, they are often forced to leave family, friends, and careers thus rendering them homeless and vulnerable. Nearly 90% of shelter residents are considered low-income and of those living in the shelter:

  • 35% need cab fare to visit emergency rooms/hospitals or urgent care clinics because of injuries incurred through domestic violence.
  • Only 25% own a car, while 75% rely on public transportation.

Domestic violence is a major cause of homelessness for women and children, however with support from the Nonprofit Network Giving Circle, we can help survivors transition to safe, stable living.

Volunteer Spotlight: Travis White

Travis is a superhero of volunteers.” – Debbi Cawthon, SafeChoice Shelter Manager

Travis White was inspired to become a volunteer three years ago while listening to a speaker at his local church talk about finding passion in life. Travis took the sermon to heart and began reflecting on his own life and soon discovered that giving his time to help survivors of domestic violence would be a perfect fit. That’s when he discovered the SafeChoice shelter – the only domestic violence shelter in Southwest Washington.

Every Friday for the last three years, Travis has devoted his time to nurturing children living in the SafeChoice shelter. Due to the nature of emergency shelter, the number and ages of the children Travis works with vary greatly from week to week which often dictates the activities they engage in. Sometimes they simply “hang out” and other weeks they create elaborate art projects. As Travis says, “The kids often know what they want to do. If the weather is nice they go outside but it all depends on the nature of who is there that day. Most of the time they will tell you what they want.”

The children that Travis sees each week come from a variety of backgrounds, yet they all have one thing in common: they are in need of positive, nurturing adult interactions. Travis notes that every once in a while, one of the children makes a connection with him and will seek him out week after week. That’s when he reminds himself that although the stories and situations are heartbreaking, he is there to help.

“I’m making a difference at least right now, today, for one child.”

When asked if anything was surprising about volunteering for SafeChoice, Travis remarked, “All the staff is impressive. They deal with stuff that society wants to pretend doesn’t exist in their own backyard. The staff is strong and they empower participants to move forward with their lives.”

While it is true that the SafeChoice staff is a group of strong, dedicated individuals, ywca clark county knows that the strength and commitment of the volunteers is what helps us achieve our mission each day. When asked what advice he would give to someone considering becoming a volunteer, Travis exclaimed, “Try it out! If it is something that fits within your passion and skill set, you will feel energized. If it doesn’t, you’ll know quickly.”

ywca clark county thanks Travis for his service and echoes his message to potential volunteers: “Try it out!”

For more information on how to get involved, visit

Donor Spotlight: Schwab Foundation

In January of this year, the Dwight and Anna Schwab Charitable Foundation generously granted $15,000 to create the Preschool Assistance for Needy Families fund. The fund offers need-based assistance to children experiencing homelessness or living in low income situations so that they may attend the Y’s Care Children’s Program at ywca clark county.

Y’s Care provides quality preschool education to children from homeless, transitioning, or low-income circumstances. Children 2½ to 5 years old are involved in a preschool program that provides a safe environment, nutritious meals and snacks, physical fitness, and need-specific care for up to 20 participants at any given time. For homeless and transitioning families specifically, Y’s care extends beyond basic child education by providing community resources and referrals for parents who are striving to regain self-sufficiency.

To date, 12 children have received Schwab scholarships and the impact has been immeasurable. Children who were once experiencing crisis, chaos, or transition are now experiencing stability in their daily life. They are learning how to regulate emotions, deal with frustration in a positive manner, and build community with other children and adults. With help from the Schwab Foundation, these children are able to continue their early childhood education to become developmentally, socially, and emotionally prepared for kindergarten and life.

“If I did not receive a scholarship, I don’t know if I would be able to afford to enroll my daughter in Y’s Care. I would have to settle on another childcare option – perhaps one where I would worry about the safety of my child each day. But I have been truly blessed; receiving a scholarship to enroll my daughter in Y’s Care has been one of the best things that have happened in a long time.”
- Mother of a child in Y’s Care

“With the help of the scholarships, we have been able to keep consistency in our children’s lives, even through being homeless at one point. With help of the scholarships we were able to keep employment and had the resources to find housing. It gave us piece of mind to know that our kids were somewhere safe.”
- Father of two children in Y’ Care

The Dwight an Anna Schwab Charitable Foundation supports the legacy of Dwight and Anna Schwab – that of improving the economic conditions and quality of life within our community. ywca clark county is honored to receive funding from the foundation and we cannot thank them enough for helping us change lives.

National Foster Care Awareness Month

In recognition of Foster Care Awareness Month this past May, ywca clark county would like to take a moment to focus on the children who wait in foster homes for stability to return to their lives and the teenagers who are preparing to transition out of care. On behalf of the roughly 800 children in foster care in Clark County, it is important to raise awareness of the issues that impact foster youth and to encourage individuals in our community to support them.

Each year in Clark County, over 300 children are removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Children and youth of every race, ethnicity, culture, and age group are placed in foster care when their parents or guardians are no longer able to ensure their essential well-being. These children need stable, loving care until they can either safely reunite with their families or establish lifelong relationships with a nurturing adult.

Even though a child may have experienced abuse or neglect in their home, that lifestyle is all he or she knows. It is their framework for understanding life. In a foster home, the smells are different, the food is unique, the foster family may not look like the child and they may even speak a different language. Navigating the newness can be especially stressful to a child.

About 30% of children in foster care have severe emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems and most children struggle with the following issues:

  • blaming themselves and feeling guilty about removal from their birth parents
  • wishing to return to birth parents even if they were abused by them
  • feeling unwanted if awaiting adoption for a long time
  • feeling helpless about multiple changes in foster parents or social workers
  • having mixed emotions about attaching to foster parents
  • feeling insecure and uncertain about their future
Children in foster care between the ages of 15 and 21 are in a unique position of transitioning out of state care and becoming adults. For these children, becoming independent and having to make life altering decisions is a scary thought, especially when decisions have always been made for them. Research shows that young people who age out of foster care are far more likely than their peers to endure homelessness, poverty, compromised mental and physical health, insufficient education, unemployment, incarceration, and early pregnancy and parenthood. These youth are in a vulnerable position and need kind, compassionate adults to help them create their own road map for life.

At ywca clark county, we offer two programs that serve foster children and youth in our community. Not everyone can become a foster parent or dedicate time to volunteering, but don’t be discouraged anyone can help change the life of a child.

Volunteer with the Court Appointed Special Advocates Program (CASA) at ywca clark county and learn how to advocate in court for abused, neglected, or abandoned children. CASA volunteers are often the one stable, supportive adult that the child is able to connect with. To learn more, visit

Volunteer with the Independent Living Skills Program (ILS) at ywca clark county. ILS teaches self-sufficiency skills to teens getting ready to age out of foster care and live on their own in the community. The program focuses on employment, housing, and education as the three legs of self-sufficiency. To learn more, visit

Make a dedicated effort to get involved with legislation surrounding foster care. Make direct requests to your legislators, petition, and vote for measures that advocate for the best interest of foster care children and youth.

Investigate ways in which your business or employer can provide support. Some employers will match donations to non-profits such as ywca clark county, some encourage volunteer opportunities within the community and some even offer employment assistance or training to foster youth.
It is time to change the perception that children in foster care are the responsibility of someone else. They are our children and their well-being is dependent on the willingness of our entire community to care for and about them. All children deserve safe, happy lives and all children deserve compassionate, understanding adult interactions. Together we can make a difference.