SEATTLE -- A local non-profit is opening a safe place for kids who suddenly find themselves torn from everything they've ever known. Amara Parenting's new emergency sanctuary is for children who have been removed from their homes for their own protection.
Finding a safe, comfortable alternative can take time -- and that can take a serious toll on a child.
Amara's emergency sanctuary serves as an entry point for kids who can't go back home. Staff and volunteers welcome kids to age 12 with a nourishing meal, a place to stay and expert care.
"They're going to get attention and understanding and a consistent response by staff trained in helping children who have been traumatized," said Amara Executive Director, John Morse.
It's a place where a kid can be a kid. And it gives social workers more time to find the right placement. Shanon Doolittle was only 9 when she found out at school she would need to go into foster care.
"And somebody is telling you you don't get to go back home and that transition is so traumatic," said Doolittle. "What happened for me is my home wasn't ready so I had to wait for hours. So there I was with every emotion I can think possible. I was a pinball and there was no one to put a bumper on what I was feeling."
The emergency sanctuary is meant to be a transitional place for up to 72 hours. It's licensed to care for five children at a time, who are welcomed into a warm and friendly environment designed to take some of the trauma out of being torn from their home.
A shortage of foster homes means finding the right placement isn't easy.
"By giving the state more time we're going to give the network of foster families and the state the opportunity to find the right home for those children," said Morse.
It's an alternative to what has become the norm: waiting in a social worker's car, at a police station, or in Doolittle's case, the school nurse's office.
"They're going to be able to be a kid. They won't have to turn into an adult immediately which is what I felt like I had to do," said Doolittle. "To be able to come into a place where immediately the feeling is, 'you are worth it and you are special,' I promise you it will change the experience."