Nothing is normal for a kid walking into a new foster home.
"It's overwhelming because they don't know what's going on," said Liz Wisham. "I couldn't imagine myself just showing up at someone's door, and you're expected to be okay and go live with these people."
That's why Wisham, a veteran foster parent, wants a new center in Lake Stevens place to be different. Wisham has welcomed dozens of frightened foster children into her life over the past eight years and wants to build them a better beginning.
"Here, they'll get to build a comfort zone and work through the process in that comfort zone," she said.
It's called The Bridge Receiving Center.
Once construction is completed this spring, it will be a place where, instead of spending nights in motel rooms or bouncing from home to home after being taken into foster care, kids quite literally go to camp.
"They will have all of their needs met in a warm, comfortable setting," said Wisham. "They will see therapists and go through all of the state mandates, but they will also get to have fun."
The Bridge abuts Cedar Springs Camp in Lake Stevens. Camp operators are allowing the foster kids to use all 300 acres and their amenities for free.
"There will be time to take a break and go do the ropes course, or explore the camp," said Dan Hamer, who co-founded The Bridge with his wife, Kathleen. "There will be a chance to be a kid in the midst of all the trauma that they are going through."
As a pilot program, The Bridge will take in six boys ages six to ten. They will stay for up to 30 days while the best possible housing situation is worked out. Typically, state workers have just 72 hours to make a placement and have to take the first available bed.
Hamer says the idea came after a Thanksgiving dinner with a group of homeless teens he has mentored over the years.
"Some of these kids had been placed in 50 different homes. You might just as well go live under a bridge, at that point. If that first placement is a better placement, we will end this pattern of failure that we create in these kids."
If the pilot project is successful, the plan is to expand the concept and house up to 40 boys and girls.
"This is a model we think could work anywhere," said Hamer.
With 75 new kids in Snohomish and King Counties alone going into foster care every day, Hamer believes The Bridge will help lead many of them home.
Organizers say the state supports the project and will pay three-quarters of operating costs once it is complete. Construction of The Bridge is well underway, but organizers need funds to finish the project and build a nest egg for operating expenses.