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Check & Connect Community Spotlight


Treehouse: Giving foster kids a childhood and a future

Treehouse, a Seattle non-profit serving youth in foster care, has developed the Graduation Success program, which uses a combination of Check & Connect and student-centered planning to support youth who are or who have been in foster care. The program began in January 2013.

Read about Check & Connect education specialist (aka mentor) Emma Dixon on our Attend-Engage-Invest blog.

Read educator and Check & Connect mentor Susan Huntley's blog article, Showing Tanya her own strength

Scope: As of March 2014, Graduation Success is being implemented in more than 100 schools across 15 school districts in King County, Washington State. Most of the schools are public middle and high schools, but Graduation Success is also serving students at alternative schools and private schools.

Student population and grades served: During the 2013-2014 school year, more than 500 students in grades 6-12 have been served in the Graduation Success program.

Referral criteria: The primary referral criterion for Graduation Success is "having experienced foster care." Treehouse gets referrals from the Children's Administration of the Washington State Department of Social & Health Services. They enroll all referred students in Graduation Success unless they go to a school not currently being served by the program. In the Graduation Success program model, the Check & Connect concept of "persistence plus" has another layer of meaning: continuing to serve students even after they've returned to permanency.

Implementation options: Graduation Success uses Check & Connect Mentors and/or Education Specialists to support participating students. The program currently has 36 Mentors and 18 Education Specialists; not all participating schools have Check & Connect Mentors.

Mentors are school staff with half- or three-quarter-time appointments in the school (e.g., paraprofessionals) and small Graduation Success caseloads. At the schools that have Mentors, the Mentors check the data and enter it into Graduation Success's electronic tracking system. If data meet certain thresholds, the data system will send a task to the Education Specialist to follow-up with the student. The Mentors also see their Graduation Success mentees every day and often begin the process of providing intensive intervention to them as soon as they discover a concern. At schools that have Mentors, it's really helpful for the Education Specialists to have someone "on the ground" who has easy access to the data, knows the other teachers in the school, sees the students every day, and understands school rules and policies.

Education Specialists are full-time Treehouse field staff with caseloads of 17-35 students across multiple schools. They see each individual student about once a week, providing mentoring and coaching support. They gather and enter the data for students at schools without Mentors. They also attend IEP meetings, assist the students with creating and carrying out their student-centered plans, and are able to refer students to resources and programs beyond those available from the school or district. They are often the ones making contacts with parents, social workers, truancy officers, etc. (Check & Connect would like to thank Education Specialist Amy Kopriva and Mentor Cathy Aungst for helping us understand their respective roles in Graduation Success.)

Funding: Graduation Success is primarily supported by private funds raised by Treehouse, as well as a newly acquired state contract for a demonstration project of the model.

Contact: Robin Harwick, Senior Manager, Impact Management, Treehouse, 206-267-5190,

See also

See more Check & Connect Community Spotlights

Posted April 15, 2014

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