Olive Crest isn't new to the Tri-Cities, but it is hoping to become better known.
The California-based nonprofit's primary function in the Tri-Cities is to place foster children with foster families. But officials running operations in Washington hope to expand by recruiting a local board to help identify community needs and resources, and by working with churches to start a program to prevent children from ending up in foster care.
"We want to be here in a more profound way," said Kevin Hunter, executive director for Olive Crest in Washington. "We want to expand. We want to grow our work. We know it's going to take a group effort, a group of stakeholders."
Hunter said the nonprofit is talking with other nonprofits serving at-risk kids about how agencies can collaborate to provide services in the Tri-Cities.
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The goal of creating a local board is to have people who can help forge those connections as well as to find funding sources over the next few years. The nonprofit gets about 65 percent of its funding from state contracts, but the rest comes from private sources or donations, Hunter said.
"In the last four years, organizations like ours have had state funding cut 22 percent," he said. "As dollars go down, the service level continues to drop. We have more and more (kids in) crisis, less and less kids getting helped and ultimately transformed and healed."
Olive Crest has worked with foster children and families in the Tri-Cities since 2007 under a contract with the state Department of Social and Health Services. It works with 15 licensed foster families and about 18 to 20 children, Hunter said.
The agency works to match children with a foster home that will feel safe and stable so they can recover from the abuse or neglect that put them in the system.
Hunter said many of the children placed by Olive Crest end up adopted by their foster parents.
The prevention program, known as Safe Families For Children, is a collaborative effort with churches, volunteers and child care professionals to offer parents who are in crisis short-term childcare with trained volunteers.
The idea is to give parents the break they need so stress doesn't lead to abuse or neglect.
Hunter said the program has a high success rate for reuniting families and keeping children out of the child welfare system.
"All of us as taxpayers, wouldn't you love being able to prevent some of these families and children ever entering the system in the first place?" he said.
To volunteer or for more information, contact Eastern Washington director Carol Plischke at 509-468-0700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; email@example.com