To say that 2020 was a challenging year would be a massive understatement. Throughout the US, the pandemic has impacted the ability of nonprofit organizations like Amara to operate as planned. No matter who you are, we have all worked hard to mitigate the public health and economic impacts on our work and in our lives. At Amara, this has meant nothing less than working with our community, all of you, to continue to work toward wellbeing for children and families, while prioritizing the health and safety of our staff and volunteers as well.
Our Emergency Sanctuaries in Tacoma and Seattle remained closed throughout most of 2020, in order to protect the health and safety of staff, volunteers, and children; and because the impact of Covid-19 initially led to a reduced number of children entering foster care who needed emergency services. As well, while the number of young people in foster care staying in hotels in our region distressingly increased last year, Amara’s Sanctuaries have not typically worked with this population of older youth. To help close any potential gap in care, our foster care program supported young children first entering foster care who would have gone to the Sanctuaries during more typical times.
Because of these combined factors, we have decided to keep our Emergency Sanctuary program closed through 2021.
We value every member of our Amara family – staff, volunteers, children, and families — and this decision has been tremendously challenging and painful, and not one we take lightly. We are so grateful for our Sanctuary staff and volunteers’ commitment and dedication to children in foster care. We are endlessly appreciative of the love, compassion, respect, and care they have shared with children. Our priorities have always been and continue to be the health and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers, children, and families.
What does this mean moving forward? There is a lot of work to do and we won’t stop until all children, families, and adoptees have the support and access to resources they need to grow and thrive. We continue to work, through our highly respected foster care program, to find loving homes for children who are separated from their families. We have expanded our Family Time team (with a lot of support and help from our former Sanctuary colleagues, four of whom have joined the Family Time team!) which facilitates visits between children in foster care and their families, we are introducing new programs this year to help foster strong connections as quickly as possible between parents and caregivers, and we will be working with kinship caregivers as well. Meanwhile, our Pierce County project is progressing as we seek to co-locate critical services to help prevent family separation, promote reunification, and improve the life-long wellbeing of children and families. Through our Adoption Files Initiative (formerly Project Search and Reunion) and our virtual STAR adoptive parent support groups, we are creating space and connection for adoptees, adoptive families, and birth families to find, share, and connect their stories, experiences, and lives.
All of our work, whether it’s providing programs and services to children, families, and adult adoptees or advocating for widespread systemic change within child welfare, is rooted in a deep commitment to equity. We know we simply cannot achieve our mission without striving, in everything we do, to transform our organization into a workplace that leads with racial justice.
We will continue to work with DCYF and our partners throughout the state to not only find supportive foster parents for children and youth in foster care, but to also ensure that all children who can safely reunify with their families do so. And, excitingly, we will soon roll out an updated mission and vision, along with a brand-new website.
If you are reading this, you are a part of the Amara family and we value your thoughts, opinions, and feedback. If you have questions about our Sanctuary closure, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you’ll remain with us on this journey.