Shelter provides comfort for children going into foster care

Kids often spend the first few days in a car or office. A new space aims to eliminate that.

EVERETT — Children placed into foster care often spend the first couple of days with a social worker.

Most of their time could be in a car, hotel or office, listening to strangers talk about what they’ve been through.

Everett-based nonprofit Hand in Hand was created to make that time more comfortable. The organization provides a short-term shelter for young people in Snohomish County who have just been placed in foster care.

The housing, called Safe Place, is moving. Its current location is in a business park along Casino Road. Once there, the kids receive food, toiletries and emotional support.

The new space is going to be more like a home, located at a Baptist church in south Everett.

Construction still needs to be finished. There will be enough room for six kids at a time. The space likely won’t open for a few months, said Katie Thielman, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit.

“It’ll have a yard, kitchen, family room, bedrooms, that kind of thing,” she said. “Definitely a much more comfortable place.”

The number of children at Hand in Hand changes by the month, she said.

Even though it’ll be on church property, the program still is going to be run by staff from the nonprofit.

Hand in Hand was founded about a decade ago by executive director Todd McNeal, who was a foster parent at the time.

He heard stories about children who had just been removed from their homes. They would have to drive around with a social worker, as the adult made phone calls in front of them to find a foster family.

Sometimes kids would show up late at night with their belonging in garbage bags.

“It’s just like, there has to be a better way,” Thielman said. “That’s why they started this shelter.”

At that time the agency was the first of its kind in the state, she said. Now there are similar services in Bellingham and Seattle.

The organization works with the state Department of Children, Youth and Families. The shelter usually hosts young people for about three days, until they are placed with a family.

“It gives them a safe and comfortable place to be loved … during that, I’m sure, traumatic time in their life,” Thielman said.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

To get help

Hand in Hand also provides support for families who may be close to experiencing homelessness. For more information call 425-374-2461.

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