By Isaac Bonnell
State funding gaps are hitting home for Northwest Youth Services, a local nonprofit organization that provides counseling and emergency shelter for at-risk teens.
The nonprofit recently cut back on its counseling and foster care programs after losing $1.7 million in state funding, said interim executive director Riannon Bardsley.
“Our two biggest revenue sources were cut,” she said. “This seems to be happening to all youth services involved with foster care. It’s not just local, it’s all youth services.”
In 2008, Northwest Youth Services was operating with a $2.5 million budget — that dropped this year to about $800,000. With such a significant drop in funding, the organization was forced to layoff 24 employees and is now running on a “hunkered down” staff of 12, Bardsley said.
“Because we have made such dramatic cuts at this point, we’re hoping to get through this,” Bardsley said. “We have every faith that there is a light at the end of this tunnel.”
Along with staff cuts, the organization is also trimming the programs that it offers. One such program is Safe Home, which was started 33 years ago to provide emergency housing for minors. It has been put on hold until more funding can be found.
“We’re hoping that by the end of 2010 we’ll be able to restart our Safe Home program,” Bardsley said.
Other suspended programs include:
• Red Mountain House, which supported 38 local children in foster care and helped find long-term housing.
• In-home counseling for families in distress. This program was designed to help avoid family disintegration and placement of children in foster care.
Northwest Youth Services will continue to operate several of the programs that aren’t offered anywhere else, such as Teen Court and emergency shelter for homeless or runaway youth, Bardsley said.
“We want to remain in this community because there isn’t anybody else offering these services,” Bardsley said. “We strongly believe that youth need their own agency, their own door to go to.”
Northwest Youth Services was founded in 1976 with a mission to “keep young people safe, heal family relationships, reconnect youth with their community and promote self-reliance.” For more information, call (360)734-9862.