Despite rumors of the opposite, the Seattle-based Children’s Home Society of Washington maintains that the Key Peninsula Family Resource Center is expanding services to improve access to assistance for low-income families.
Perry Shaw, CHSW’s director of family support and well-being said, “We’re more committed to the Key Peninsula than we’ve ever been in the past. We’re not only meeting the needs of the community, but increasing support for them.”
The staff in Vaughn was made aware months ago that CHSW planned to make changes statewide with some restructuring and rebranding efforts ahead.
For the last two decades, the Vaughn office was led by managers who lived on or near the KP. The last full-time manager, Gina Cabiddu, resigned last fall to accept a new job working in children’s healthcare in Tacoma.
Tami Miller-Bigelow, a part-time family support specialist employed at the CHSW KP Family Resource Center for over 20 years, said that walking into the office the morning of Feb. 21 was anything but normal.
Miller-Bigelow told KP News she arrived early that day and was directed to a computer to connect with the human resources department in Seattle. She was informed that her job had been eliminated in the restructuring, and she would be paid through the end of the month. She no longer had access to her computer, was told to relinquish her keys and company cell phone on the spot, and to collect her personal things before leaving the building.
“I was blown away by how abrupt it was,” Miller-Bigelow said. “I’ve never been let go from a job before and this felt shocking. It was as if I was a criminal.”
She said she had been thinking of retiring eventually. Miller-Bigelow managed the diaper bank program as well as the popular indoor playtime for toddlers held Tuesday and Thursday mornings in the gym at the KP Civic Center. After so many years in the position, she said the hardest part was not being able to reach out to her families, reassure them and say goodbye.
“Staffing has dwindled over the years,” she said. “All I can hope is that they staff up soon because there are clients who rely on help from Children’s Home Society to have their basic needs met.”
Rick Purcell, CHSW chief family support and well-being officer said, “The evolution of how we operate in our Key Peninsula community to focus only on full-time staff was not decided lightly and was a calculated structural shift with the objective of better serving families in all the unique ways they need.
“We know that change is hard and we are dealing with people’s lives and livelihood which we took into consideration as well as we developed our plan. We very much appreciate the commitment of past employees and know that we will be better positioned for our future as a result of their efforts.”
The center previously employed part-time social workers and support staff, but the nonprofit recently hired four full-time employees to replace them, including a new manager. CHSW also hired a full-time front desk administrator and two social workers, one who is bilingual to be more accessible to Spanish-speaking families. CHSW refers to its social workers as “family navigators.”
The organization also hired Rimi Afroze as the regional director for Northwest Washington. She’ll be tasked with leading the day-to-day activity and growth of CHSW’s three family resource centers in the Puget Sound region, including the KP. CHSW operates 18 centers in the state.
Shaw said she knows that transportation around the Key Peninsula is a challenge and said CHSW is looking to bring some of its services on the road, so to speak, with more mobile outreach opportunities.
The Key Peninsula Family Resource Center is focused on serving low-income families with early learning and family support opportunities. In addition to helping with referral services for financial aid, health care and employment, the organization can provide basic needs like diapers, clothing, utility assistance, school supplies and gas vouchers. It also offers social and emotional mentoring groups for middle school-aged students, and hosts the Indoor Park Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Key Peninsula Civic Center. Indoor Park gives toddlers and preschoolers a chance to socialize before they start school.
The Key Peninsula Family Resource Center is located at 17010 South Vaughn Road and is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more at www.childrenshomesociety.org
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