Southwest Youth & Family Services: Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time Grantee Profile
SOWA is excited to work with the many amazing organizations funded through the King County Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time (BSK OST) investment! These organizations, funded either as stand alone People of Color-Led organizations or Place-Based Partnerships, are all working hard to maximize their positive impact on King County youth.
Learn more about Southwest Youth & Family Services, funded as the lead organization of a Place-Based Partnership Grant.
SOUTHWEST YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES
Southwest Youth and Family Services (SWYFS) is the lead organization in a Place-Based Partnership in White Center, Burien and SeaTac with Geeking Out Kids of Color (GOKiC) and Arts Corps, serving the Arbor Heights, Woodridge Park, and Windsor Heights housing communities. They are also involved in SOWA’s HELO network. Their New Futures programs provide after-school academic and enrichment offerings for over 170, 1st-12th graders during the academic year, as well as summer programming, in addition, they also offer early learning programming for 0-5 year old kids and their parents. SWYFS serves low-income students in the Highline Public Schools system, in which two thirds are struggling to meet their English Language Arts and Math benchmarks—so New Futures’ tutoring program is critical in supporting students after-school. They have a collaborative relationship with the school district, which provides New Futures with quarterly grades and monthly attendance reports. Being embedded within a housing community promotes deep connection with their community—SWYFS not only works with students individually but family advocates at every site ensure that the whole family is meeting basic needs, are supported in times of crisis, and are connected with other families through annually cultural events.
The BSK OST investment has left a profound impact on the retention of staff. All youth and elementary coordinators have been increased from part time to full time positions. This enables consistent one-on-one mentoring, particularly with middle and high school students. Youth and elementary coordinators have more availability to connect with teachers, students, and parents/guardians to develop a plan so each student thrive. This means dedicated, consistent staff form authentic relationships with individuals and are able to identify and address challenges.
At SWYFS, as with much of the youth development field, there is a high attrition rate (about 30%). In the last 18 months, no staff have left New Futures—people stay because they have the combination of passion and expertise to make a difference in kids’ lives. 70% of staff are People of Color, and most are members of the communities that are served by SWYFS. All program coordinators are degree-holders, and increased funding enables the organization to retain these talented staff members.
Retention of staff is critical both for the health of the overall program, and also more specifically for the youth themselves. Consistency is so impactful for youth, especially those who have a hard time relating to adults or have had traumatic transitions. By maintaining a committed and sustainable presence in kids’ lives, staff can develop trust as youth are no longer constantly creating new relationships. This in turn enables staff to move from crisis mode to strategic program development, streamlining what to do and how to do it.
This increase in staff capacity means SWYFS is now able to develop curriculum that is specifically tailored to meet student needs at each individual site. The BSK OST investment has also benefited partnership. GOKiC had an incubator program at one site, and has now expanded to offer tech programs at all 3 sites. Similarly, SWYFS prior to the BSK OST investment, approached Arts Corps to help incorporate arts programming to one of the site—now Arts Corps can dedicate one teaching artist for a full year to all 3 sites. This partnership coalesces in a robust curriculum that meets the need for both tech and arts programming (which promote confidence, sense of self, and leadership). With the fast-changing Seattle landscape, this partnership offers an avenue where our students are building not only socio-emotional intelligence but the hard and practical skills to develop into leaders.
SOWA offers a roadmap for embedding SEL practices in youth programs, which dovetail with the trauma-informed training SWYFS has near the beginning of the year. The community of students they work with, primarily Black and Latinx youth, receive the most punitive consequences both within school and in the wider world, as well as face stark economic and societal barriers. SEL practices enable the integration of a trauma-informed lens into every aspect of their work. Beyond SEL practices within their programs, SWYFS hopes to provide families the access to trauma-informed parenting that they have requested. A Place-Based funding model supports working not only with students but also with their whole family and the community at large.