Southwest Youth and Family Services Programs
SWYFS provides services to a very divers set of low income children, youth and families in West Seattle, Delridge, South Park, White Center, Burien, SeaTac and unincorporated SW King County. Services include:
- Youth Development: After-school programs; Seattle and King County youth violence prevention programs; youth case management; Aggression Replacement Training (A.R.T.); and a Summer Young Writers Workshop are among the major youth development program opportunities.
Mental Health: individual, family and group counseling for children, youth and their families; case management for youth at risk of committing violence; Aggression Replacement Training to help at-risk youth learn to resolve conflict without violence. Services are provided at the main office, in homes, at schools and at community sites including Burien, SeaTac and White Center. Counseling is available in English and Spanish.
- Education: high school credit retrieval and GED program for students who have dropped out or been suspended from public schools, including teen parents; after school academic support for students in grades 1-12 in 3 SW King County apartment communities; and the Parent-Child Home Program, a pre-literacy skills development program for 2 and 3 year-olds and other early learning activities for children and parents.
- Family Support: parenting education and support; Play and Learn early childhood support groups; advocacy for immigrant and refugee families; young parent advocacy; assistance meeting basic needs and accessing community services and social, recreation and community building activities for families. Services are available in several languages, including Arabic, Cambodian, English, Samoan, Somali and Spanish, and are provided throughout SW Seattle and King County.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Case managers at SWYFS connect with and foster change in youth at risk of involvement in violence. After regular meetings with a case manager, one youth said, "If I hadn't run into him, I’d probably be a gangbanger or hurting people, threatening their lives. That's where I was headed. Basically, I'd be a menace and a bad influence." Case managers can see another side of youth. "He's a compassionate, caring young man," said his case manager, who helped him plan ways to cope with anger and alternatives to the behavior that got him repeatedly in trouble. His family's financial situation contributed to his struggles, leaving him open to taunts and teasing. A volunteer job at a food bank helped him gain a new view on how hard life could be. Now, the young man continues to face frustrations and feel anger like all 10th-graders, but thanks to SWYFS, he knows how to deal with those feelings, and wants to succeed in school and beyond.
Providing case management and counseling for youth is clearly one way to help reduce community violence. However, a growing issue is the number of youth who “age out” of support services once they turn 18 or 19. Available funding does not provide continued or new case management for youth 18 to 24, ages at which youth continue to be at risk. Community services are desperately needed to help older youth at high risk of criminal involvement move fully into stable and self sufficient adulthood. Not only would the youth themselves benefit – we all would.