by Maureen Sorenson, Amara’s Pierce County Director

I am honored to share with you an exciting opportunity to dream big together for children and families in Pierce County who need support. I have worked with children in foster care for two decades. Today, we are standing at the precipice of a potentially game-changing moment for children and families, unlike anything I’ve seen before!

In 2018, Amara purchased a 29-acre property in Pierce County. With this expansive, undeveloped property, there is immense potential to transform the way we deliver foster care – to dream bigger than we ever have before for kids and families in our Pierce County community. To do this, we are creating a shared vision for how to address the full spectrum of needs and supports for families involved in the child welfare system – including preventing children from entering foster care, when possible.

We feel a deep responsibility to the children and families in this community – where 1500 children are currently in foster care – to use this property to find solutions to together. Separately, we all have pieces of this puzzle but it’s only by working together that we can create a full picture of how best to care for children and families.

Community leaders and government officials show their support at our Community Launch Event 3/25/19

In the short time Amara has owned the land, we have heard incredible enthusiasm and encouragement from community leaders, government officials, and those most impacted by foster care. We’ve already heard exciting ideas for what could be housed on this property, including mental health support, childcare resources, housing and health care access, and recreational opportunities – just to name a few!

Amara has been focused on the well-being of children for close to a century. Our work has primarily been focused on supporting kids and families after they enter foster care but we are keenly aware of the need to keep families together and keep kids out of foster care in the first place. We know we are not the experts on how to do that; the community is – including children and families in crisis and those who have navigated the challenges facing families involved in the child welfare system. And so we are here to listen and learn. That’s why we’re embarking on a community engagement process throughout 2019 – to convene, listen, learn, and develop a plan of action for our new plot of land.

We are excited to host regular gatherings to ask the community: how do we support children and families in crisis? What haven’t we, as advocates for children and families, considered and why? How can we be as innovative as possible in thinking about providing care and services to children and families on one community campus? We also want to know: who else should we be talking to? Who isn’t in the room, who should be?

We all have a role to play. We invite you to share your thoughts, ideas, and feedback. We also hope you’ll participate in our ongoing community conversations.

We are in the process of putting together an advisory council to help gather all the input and feedback, make some important decisions about a vision, and develop a plan for how best to utilize the campus. We will then come back together so we can share what we’ve learned from the community as well as the draft plan.

Join our mailing list to ensure you hear about our upcoming listening sessions! And feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments at: PierceCommunity@AmaraPutsKidsFirst.org

Thank you for joining us to Dream Big for Kids and Families!