The First Smile
Childhaven’s impact on two foster infants
Did you know that approximately 10% of children enrolled in Childhaven’s therapeutic early learning program are in foster care? Although we primarily serve kids who live with their biological families, we’re proud to be able to support foster parents, especially those caring for children with high needs.
Catherine and Tyler are two infants who came to Childhaven within their first few months of life. By the time they arrived, they had already been placed in a foster home with parents Doug and Tom.
“We learned about Childhaven through a social worker,” Tom explains. “From the moment we stepped foot in the Broadway branch, we were welcomed with open arms. Walking into Childhaven, you feel like you’re walking into someone’s home.”
Both children were enrolled in one of our infant rooms with teacher Anna Steger, where they received daily nurturing care. “All infants need to form an attachment with an adult in order to develop,” Anna says. “If you don’t have that foundational connection built on trust, stability, and consistency, your brain can’t grow and you won’t be able to learn how to respond to things emotionally or even gain motor skills. Many foster children have trouble attaching to caregivers, and need extra support.”
It’s possible that Tyler was exposed to drugs while in utero; he arrived at Childhaven with some developmental delays. Catherine, meanwhile, struggled to relax. She wouldn’t sleep, and her body was constantly stiff and rigid. Anna went straight to work.
“For a while Catie refused to look me in the eye or smile at me. She would literally turn her head away if I tried to make eye contact. This often happens with infants who haven’t yet attached to a caregiver. But we kept trying with her, kept striving to make a connection. We began rocking both her and Tyler to sleep, gazing into their eyes with a smiling, loving face, and playing with them while they were awake—doing the same things that Doug and Tom were doing at home.”
Were Doug and Tom ever worried? “Of course,” Tom says. “As foster parents, worrying is a part of the job we signed up for. But even though the worry is there, it fades to the background as the joy and happiness comes forward. Parenting has been the most rewarding experience we have ever had. The joy is in the little moments—when we get to hold the kids and bond with them.”
Eventually, this intense care began to pay off. “One day,” Anna remembers, “Catie came into the classroom, and—finally—gave me a huge smile. I knew that what we were doing was working! Now she squeals and crawls quickly over to me whenever I enter the room, and gets upset when I put her down. I’m so honored to have won her trust.”
After just six short months at Childhaven, both children are doing great. “Catie is on track developmentally,” Anna reports. “She can even stand up! She makes eye contact, smiles, and responds. Tyler’s progress has been subtler, but he’s been showing more positive emotions lately, which is a great sign. His ability to finally roll over after months of working on it every day was a big win.”
Doug and Tom give lots of credit to the teachers and therapists at Childhaven for Catherine and Tyler’s progress. “Doug and I are just in awe of the outstanding team,” says Tom, “which really feels like family. They constantly shower our kids with love and support. They are always checking in with us, asking if there is any help we need and keeping us up to date with the treatment plans they have set for both kids. Childhaven has truly been a godsend.”
Annual Auction is Coming!
We hope you will join us for the 17th Annual Childhaven Auction on Saturday, October 6th at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue!
This fun-filled evening will include a silent auction, games, entertainers, Live Auction and a delicious 3-course dinner with wine! This is an event you will not want to miss!
To register to become a table captain visit childhaven.org/auction
To become a sponsor, contact Brooke Johnson at email@example.com
New Board Officers
In June, Childhaven’s Board of Trustees voted in a new group of officers. Join us in welcoming the incoming board leadership:
Chair Bareq A. Peshtaz, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management
Vice Chair Curt Anderson, Chef Software, Inc.
Treasurer Jason Warnick, Amazon
Secretary Paulette Lemon, HomeStreet Bank
Learn more about Childhaven’s Board of Trustees here.
Over the past four years, retired technology consultant Bimal Wadhwa has visited the Childhaven branch near Burien, WA, to volunteer in early learning classrooms. We caught up with Bimal to learn more about his dedication to our cause and the impact of his service.
How did you first learn of Childhaven?
My wife and I realized early on with our own kids that we couldn’t just wing it as parents. We decided to take classes on positive parenting, which were eye-opening. They also brought home the advantage of our privileged circumstances. I recognized plainly that I could do more for children not in equally nurturing situations. I discovered Childhaven while searching for a setting where I could help. The two days that I volunteer at Childhaven have the been the best part of my weeks now for over four years!
How would you describe your typical day at Childhaven?
Even though I try to sneak into the room quietly when I arrive, I often have a horde of kids come running to give and get hugs! I usually get in when the kids are moving from breakfast to free play. I am happy to join in, especially chasing and playing with the kids outdoors, where I feel as if I am five years old again!
What is one of your favorite Childhaven volunteering moments?
One that I will never forget: A teacher in my class was working with kids at circle time. The subject was staying safe if separated from a caregiver in a public setting. As the kids patiently took turns to describe what each of them would do, four-year old Jack seemed almost bored. After some prodding from the teacher, he responded: “I would call Uber and go home”!
What would you say to someone considering volunteering at one of the branches?
I distinctly remember several kids over the years that were severely withdrawn when they first came to Childhaven. They were not ready to accept help or even a glance in their direction. But within weeks, they would be past their reserved selves, actively participating at circle time and playing with other kids and me. This amazing change in the children’s perspective and behavior makes it all worthwhile.
To top it off, with all the fun and laughs that I have with them as a volunteer—why would you not want to join in?!
Interested in volunteering at Childhaven? Visit our Volunteers page.
Childhaven’s Annual Report for the fiscal year ending in June 2017 is now live on our website. Your support makes our work with children and families possible—learn more about the impact we make together!
To respect the privacy of the children and families we serve, we may change their names in articles and/or use stock photos.