Saturday, June 28, 2014

Art Show Draws Out Creativity

“It’s time…to talk about it!” was the theme of a very moving art show presented by the Sexual Assault Program of the YWCA April 21-24. Nearly 25 pieces of original art were displayed to raise awareness during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and to remind the community to speak up about sexual violence.

The art contest was open to all with many of the pieces created by individuals impacted by sexual assault. A grant was provided by the Church of the Good Shepherd for the reception, awards and art supplies. Vancouver School of Arts and Academics also helped support the show. Native American Youth Alliance (NAYA) submitted some of the pieces.

“There were so many wonderful comments about the diversity of the work,” said Laurie Schacht, Sexual Assault Program Director. “We hope the conversations don’t stop in April,” she said. “It’s critical that we keep talking about it.” The goal of SAAM is to bring awareness and open up conversations.

Awards were giving for the “Most Moving,” “Most Daring” and “Most Liked but Not Sure Why.” The Sexual Assault Program of YWCA will be accepting new submissions, one per person, for the SAAM Art Show in early 2015. For more information about participating, contact Kai Hill, Program Coordinator at View photos from this year’s show on Flickr.

Advocacy in Olympia Pays Off

Good news from our state legislature. For those of you who believe little good comes from Olympia, here are two examples to the contrary. YWCA’s Public Policy Committee tracks various bills as they wend their way through the legislature. Below is the fate of two bills that affect community members obtaining services through YWCA’s CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and Sexual Assault programs.

Passage of House Bill (HB) 1298 / Senate Bill (SB) 5169 would have allowed distribution of CASA or GAL (Guardian Ad Litem) caseworkers background checks to all parties involved in a CASA or GAL appointment. Potential confidential or personal information about caseworkers would have been in the hands of individuals that were adversely affected by court decisions. In turn this could have prolonged cases needlessly or potentially been hazardous to caseworkers.
Traci, De and Laurie visited Olympia to advocate for survivors .

YWCA Clark County staff were among those testifying against this bill in Olympia. As a result of both this testimony and concerned lawmakers the bill died in committee, never reaching the floor.

Another Senate Bill, sponsored by local Senator Ann Rivers, works to assist survivors of sexual assault to live their lives without fear of contact from their convicted sexual offenders. SB 6069 authorizes the Department of Corrections to prohibit convicted sexual offenders from direct or indirect contact with the victim of the crime or specified classes of individuals. Additionally, other agencies are required to impose similar conditions of these offenders.

The Indeterminate Sentence Review Board shall impose a condition requiring the offender to refrain from contact with the victim or the victims’ immediate family members. When providing notice of a sexual offender’s residence, the Department of Corrections is required to include notice that the victim or immediate family member may request a non contact order as a stipulation of release, if this is not already provided for by court order. This bill passed the legislature and was signed into law by the Governor on March 17, 2014.

Our legislature really does work to help state residents. Become familiar with the issues and cast your vote in a manner that is right for you. Remember, every vote counts.

July 2014 Program Highlights

Sexual Assault Program

The Sexual Assault Program began “In Touch With Teens” with some students from Fort Vancouver HS. It’s a 6 session series that focuses on healthy relationships, dating violence and bystander intervention. This pilot project has been funded by a Community Foundation Youth Philanthropy Grant, which provides the curricula and healthy snacks for the youth, as well as ways to recognize their participation and engagement. Thank you to the Community Foundation Youth Philanthropy donors, and to the amazing and supportive coaches at FVHS who made this possible. The Sexual Assault Program also hosted the regional prevention meeting for Community Sexual Assault Programs in Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, Pacific, Wahkiakum and Klickitat counties.

Clark County CASA

After successfully swearing in 21 new CASA Volunteers on May 22nd, 2014, we are looking forward to another great turnout of new CASA volunteers for our Summer Training, beginning July 1st, 2014. If you are or know of a community member who has always wanted to make a huge difference in the life of an abused and neglected child, please contact Heidi Hiatt at for more information and to begin the process. We are looking forward to meeting our goal of having one volunteer for each of the children assigned to us by the Clark County Dependency Court, as there are currently 262 children who do not have a CASA working with them. Please help us meet our goal of helping all giving all children in the system a voice!

Social Change Program

The Social Change Program just hosted the Community Celebration on Tuesday, June 24th. Three leaders of social change were recognized for their dedication to our community. Congratulations Michelle Bart, Christopher Resendiz and Jose Scott! Guests also enjoyed presentations on the culture of drumming and of historical social change leaders, such as Frida Kahlo, Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou. Coming up on July 7th, join us for an informal chat at Conversations in the Community, a brown bag discussion held once a month in the Community Room of YWCA. Contact Michelle at for more information on the Social Change Program.

Y’s Care Children’s Program

On May 29th, friends and family joined Y’s Care teachers and volunteers in honoring the accomplishments of 15 preschoolers during our annual graduation celebration. To mark this important transition, graduates performed poetry and songs individually and as a group, put on two skits and played mallet instruments. Another highlight of the ceremony was the slide show. The kids enjoyed seeing themselves on the big screen and family members got a chance to see the kids in action at Y’s Care. In addition, thanks to our wonderful volunteer, Nonie Laurine, each graduate received a backpack complete with school supplies.

SafeChoice Program

The SafeChoice Program continues to develop the Children’s Advocacy Program (CAP) at the shelter. Mykaila Forsyth, who previously volunteered for CAP has been hired to continue solidifying the program. “She’s doing excellent work with children and teens in the shelter, five days a week.” says Stephanie Barr, Interim Director of SafeChoice. CAP provides support to families entering the shelter in two primary ways. Parents receive assistance with outlining and pursuing goals, while children and teens are provided opportunities to interact with, share and create with the advocates and with each other. This program has been generously funded by individual donations, and grants from United Way and the Looking Out Foundation

Independent Living Skills Program

The Independent Living Skills program recently hosted a year-end barbeque and celebrated recent high school graduates in the program. Congratulations! In the last issue, we shared our visit to Olympia to advocate for the rights of foster youth. The Mockingbird Society provides a great review of the efforts of all foster youth advocates who joined us for our policy making journey.

WORTH Program

The WORTH Program is working hard to provide resources and training for individuals in the Clark County Jail. WORTH is currently accepting donations of gently used or new bras, socks, underwear, quilt batting and sewing machines. Also, a huge thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who help make this program complete.

Seeing the Gray...Part 2: Interview with Michael Sutcliffe

By: Emily Ostrowski

 In our last newsletter, I reviewed the popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black (OINTB). Part of that review dealt with the ways in which the show portrays prison life. For better insight into the topic I interviewed PhD candidate and WORTH volunteer Michael Sutcliffe, who has worked for years with various organizations that serve incarcerated populations. Michael opened my eyes to some of the inaccuracies of OITNB, and while I still consider myself a fan of the show, I ended my initial interview with Michael wanting to seek out media that offered a more realistic portrayal of life in prison.

This desire led Michael and me to organize a showing of the documentary Visions of Abolition at YWCA. The showing was held Wednesday, April 30th in YWCA’s community room. Roughly 15-20 YWCA employees, volunteers and members of the community gathered together to watch the film, and afterwards participated in a brief Q&A. Michael and I also had our own conversation about the film, problems with our current prison system, and his advocacy with WORTH. Here are some highlights below:

Q: What do you find most powerful about the documentary Visions of Abolition, and what do you hope those watch it glean from the film?

 Visions explains the economic and social origins and effects of incarceration and peels back some of the myths and the veil that popular media has created – the most powerful attribute of the prison is its ability to make people disappear. The prison system classifies people according to their social “offensiveness” and makes them vanish from public life, ostensibly they are disappearing for a period of time, but for most, it’s forever unless they have help. Visions was created by a group of women who survived the prison system and are in various stages of shirking off the identification it’s branded them with – physically branded in some cases. Visions also prominently features Angela Davis whose work was the first abolitionist writing that I encountered, and still is the foundation of much of my own writing. Davis is really effective at articulating the ways that the prison system or Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is not a broken institution in need of some reform, but a manifestation of systemic oppression and stigmatization that does exactly what it’s intended to do. As a former political prisoner and one of the most recognized activists on prisons, she brings credibility to the film that few others could. I hope that people watching will get a better understand of the PIC and the extent to which it legalizes and legitimizes racism, sexism, and a classist fear of “poor people.” The PIC enforces privilege and stratifies communities, thus destroying them. I hope that people watching see that we need to move beyond the rhetoric of reform and “fixing” prisons and jails and instead move towards helping each other solve problems.

Q: What do WORTH Volunteers do?
Michael Sutcliffe

 WORTH volunteers go into the Clark County Main Jail and Work Center each week for two hours. At the Main Jail, we organize speakers from the community to talk about topics like drug and alcohol recovery, financial planning, basic healthcare and nutrition, and so on. When we don’t have speakers scheduled, the volunteers run workshops on similar topics to engage participants in more extended discussions. At the Work Center, each week is a single session sewing program. Participants and volunteers interact while working on quilting or sewing projects. Much of the program’s value is in helping to refranchise people who have been disappeared by the criminal legal system. Volunteers at the Work Center can help with the mechanics and logistics of sewing or can be there to talk and support. WORTH volunteers also solicit donations of women’s underwear, bras, and socks from the community in order to provide them to women who do not have financial support while incarcerated – way too many women in Clark County are arrested without these basic items and the jail does not supply them. This really bothers me. Women are often held for weeks or months without underwear, socks, or a bra! And many of these women are awaiting trial and legally are not guilty of a crime! Our volunteers who organized donation drives have done amazing work and collected enough donations to keep the program running, but it’s thin at times, and we desperately need more. Finally, a part of the program that is very important to me is teaching people about the reality of incarceration. The reason the jail and prison are as ugly as they are is that people vote for and support this approach to criminality based on misconceptions – they think locking people up makes our communities safer or that people “deserve” the kind of foul, violent treatment that they get inside. But what this actually does is push people away from their community and make them feel their only options are outside the law. The legal system sorts and brands people with a record that keeps them from getting good jobs and can prevent them from getting governmental (and private) support, which exacerbates the problems that led them to jail in the first place. Our program tries to contribute to change by informing and teaching.

Q: What advice do you give to new WORTH volunteers? 

 While I feel that working in the jail is a learning experience for most people, I don’t think it’s something that requires a particular skill or expertise. I encourage anyone working in an incarcerated setting to practice active listening and to actively try to unpack the complexity of participant’s lives. People in jail have been taught that they’re of lesser value, and listening and respecting them can give back some of their humanity. I encourage everyone who is invested in changing what criminality means and looks like to assess their own strengths and interests. WORTH is a really flexible program that can adjust to make the best use of the people involved, so I encourage new volunteers to look for ways to add, expand, revise, and so on. I also think it’s really important for anyone working inside to continuously try to reconcile what they’ve come to expect and assume about criminality with the realities that they hear and see as they meet people. One of the most important and beneficial aspects of being a WORTH volunteer is the perspective we can get of the powerful influence our own biases and assumptions have on how we see our community and our responsibilities as community members.

Sesame Street Actor to Speak at Luncheon

What are you doing on Wednesday, September 10? Mark your calendar for our 20th annual benefit luncheon. Sonia Manzano, popularly known as “Maria” on Sesame Street, will present “Building Resilient Children – The Sesame Street Way” at YWCA Clark County’s annual luncheon. Sonia’s message of empowering children aligns well with our Y’s Care Children’s Program, which offers an empowerment-based model of child education and support to low- and no-income families. Doors will open at 11:30am and the program will begin at noon at the Hilton Vancouver. Registration is now available on our website.

Sonia Manzano – Actress, Author and Advocate for Children

A first generation American of Latino descent, Sonia has affected the lives of millions of children and their parents since 1971, when the 21-year-old from the South Bronx joined the Sesame Street cast as “Maria.” As part of the Sesame Street writing staff, Sonia has won 15 Emmy Awards and is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also wrote for the Television show Little Bill on Nickelodeon. On stage, she has performed in The Vagina Monologues and The Exonerated. Sonia remains a member of the Sesame Street cast to this day, and is the author of two books for children, No Dogs Allowed (2004) and A Box Full of Kittens (2007), and of the award-winning, young adult novel The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano (2012).

Sponsorship Opportunities

Sponsorships are available ranging from $1000 to $5000 with many benefits available. Shared benefits for all levels include a table for ten at the luncheon, recognition on our website, at the event which annually draws about 500 guests. For more information, contact Erin at 906-9157 or

Say Yes to 900 Children in Clark County

It’s hard to say "No" to a child. Even when the request is small – an extra cookie, a drugstore toy, five more minutes before bedtime – we want to see those bright smiles and happy eyes when we say "Yes".

But when a child has suffered from abuse or neglect, when their lives have been turned upside down in an unfamiliar foster home, when they feel they have no one they can count on, saying no isn’t just hard. It’s agonizing.

At Clark County CASA of YWCA we never want to say no to a child who needs us. Support from people like you means we won’t have to.

Today, CASA is advocating for 643 Clark County children in the foster care and court system. They range from drug-affected twins in a neo-natal unit to 17-year-old boys and girls who will be totally on their own when they “age out” of the foster care system on their 18th birthday. Thanks to CASA, they have highly trained, compassionate volunteers and staff who are investigating and advocating for their interests.

However, 269 children in Clark County are still in need of an advocate. But we cannot help abused and neglected children – today or for generations to come – without your support. We need volunteers and donations to support the more than 900 children that pass through the Clark County court system each year. In the words of CASA volunteer Judy:

“Each time I see the gratitude and trust in my CASA child’s eyes, I’m reminded of how grateful I am that people in our community care enough about her and other foster kids to support Clark County CASA. We are doing life-saving work here. And it’s donations from our community that make it possible.”

During this special campaign of awareness for abused and neglected children, will you please consider making an investment in them and in their future? Your tax-deductible gift to Clark County CASA will go a long way to helping children today and to breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect forever. Thank you for your confidence and support.