July 5, 2023

Mission Moment – Safe Haven

About Safe Haven

YWCA Spokane’s Safe Haven is an on-site classroom that gives kids a space to be kids, while their parents and caregivers access our free programs and services.

Safe Haven is a free service open to youth from 6 weeks to 12 years old. Our classroom is stocked with a variety of toys and activities designed for kids with a variety of interests and abilities.

Individuals receiving services at YWCA Spokane have access to Safe Haven while they are on site. During scheduling, clients are asked if they need childcare. Parents are encouraged to request childcare even if things change and the kiddos don’t end up coming; then parents know that it’s an option. Their child will have a safe place to go no matter what.

“We’re giving a little trust back to people who’ve had a hard time finding it,” says Veronica Roth, Safe Haven Lead. “Having a safe place to be isn’t something that everybody has, so we’re making that as equitable as we can in our community.”

Whether a caregiver is receiving help with a domestic violence protection order with our Legal Advocates or attending trauma-informed yoga at the Women’s Opportunity Center, we are here to provide a safe place for kids.

Our Approach

Trauma-Informed Care

For a family using our services for the first time, coming to our agency can feel scary. Staff within our Safe Haven classroom work hard to create a trauma-informed space and experience that is as inviting as possible for the kiddos we serve which also helps caregivers to feel more comfortable leaving their kids with us while accessing services.

Our staff have a deep understanding of trauma-informed care and conscious discipline. Conscious discipline is a model that we use at YWCA Spokane that teaches about different brain states and helps kids and adults regulate their emotions.

Veronica recently welcomed a new family at Safe Haven. She crouched down to introduce herself to the two little girls, both under 3 years old. While Mom filled out paperwork, Veronica told her about what our program entailed to help alleviate any concerns she might have about leaving her kiddos with us. At first, the kids felt nervous and did not want their mom to leave. To help with the transition, Veronica offered the kids some play dough to help engage their sense of touch. In addition, she gave them time to adjust to the new surroundings with patience, a calm yet welcoming approach, and understanding language.

“If you’re emotionally dysregulated, you’re not going to want to sit down and color something or play with a doll right now because you’re upset,” explains Veronica. Activities that involve the senses help regulate our bodies, so squishing something tactile like Play Dough can give the children time to calm their nervous systems. Rooted in our trauma-informed approach, it is our policy never to force any client to engage in services. This includes children staying with us in Safe Haven. We do not force kids to stay in our classroom because we don’t want to re-traumatize them and make the classroom feel like another unsafe environment. We also don’t force the kids to engage in any particular activity. We actively work with the youth and caregivers to find a way to work together that allows both the adult and youth to access supportive and caring environments that help to meet their needs.

Veronica says it’s her favorite thing when a kid who was anxious when they first arrived asks for “two more minutes!” when it’s time to leave. “We’re able to remove the kids from the chaos or whatever they’re experiencing and focus on simple safety and fun,” says Veronica.

Supporting Families Holistically

We know that families accessing our services are often navigating multiple barriers or challenges that are impacting their safety and ability to heal from traumatic events. We also know that the more barriers alleviated, the more bandwidth a client will have to successfully focus on their goals and priorities.

At YWCA Spokane, we work to reduce as many barriers and challenges as possible. Providing our Caring Cubbies at Safe Haven is one example of an action we take to reduce barriers for families. Our Caring Cubbies sit at the entryway to Safe Haven and offer families who are utilizing our services free diapers, wipes, and clothes when available. Caregivers are able to grab what they need or ask about additional resources. This empowered approach helps reduce stigma around needing extra support.

Whether a family is fleeing violence and left clothes behind or a kid just had a growth spurt and nothing currently fits, we supply as many clothes to our families as possible. We have clothing sizes from newborn to pre-teen. We also refer families to additional services outside our agency if needed, such as the Teen and Kid Closet that can provide additional clothing resources beyond our capacity.

Our wonderful community donates all of the items we offer through Safe Haven. We love being able to help meet this need for the families we serve. Diapers in size 4 & 3 are the most highly needed.

Our Safe Haven classroom also has a full kitchen. “We’re very snack friendly, sometimes sending kids home with some food too,” shares Veronica. “We have Bite 2 Go bags from our partnership with ECEAP and the foodbanks to supply pantry snacks to families.” At first, a kid may be too stressed to have a snack in the classroom, so making food available for families to take home is important to us. We want our families to feel supported in a holistic way. No caregiver should have to worry about their kids being hungry.

Impact of Safe Haven

Lack of childcare is a major barrier for many of our clients. If they don’t have a safe person to watch over their children, it can be incredibly difficult to create enough space in their schedule to access meaningful services. Safe Haven provides peace of mind to caregivers knowing their kiddos are safe and cared for while they access critical services at our agency; services that allow them to move forward with their goals. Parents can speak freely with an advocate without the need to shield their children’s ears from traumatic information. They can attend a parenting class that helps them build their own self-regulation skills. They can talk with our legal team about protection orders, parenting plans, and how to stay safe moving forward. They are provided space to build new skills and new relationships.

The staff members at Safe Haven are also parents themselves and can offer support and community to the clients. “I love that the parents feel comfortable talking with me or my staff,” says Veronica. We want the community to know that Safe Haven is here to support parents. “We’re ready to play and have fun to help parents get the time they need.”

Our clients’ children have already experienced some amount of trauma by witnessing intimate partner domestic violence. Having Safe Haven built into our programs helps separate the child from the trauma, so they don’t have to sit with their caregiver during an often emotional appointment. “It allows them to just be a child,” says Veronica. We’ve seen the positive impact Safe Haven can have on children who come to our classroom repeatedly. A parent, and survivor of intimate partner domestic violence, recently completed our mental health therapy program while their child was able to socialize and thrive in our classroom over a 9 month period of weekly visits to our agency. When both parent and kid feel safe, we know amazing things can follow.


YWCA SPOKANE IS HERE FOR YOU

If you or someone you know is impacted by intimate partner domestic violence, know that confidential advocates are always available through our 24hr helpline services by calling 509-326-2255, emailing help@ywcaspokane.org, or texting 509-220-3725.

To learn more about accessing additional services through YWCA Spokane, please visit ywcaspokane.org/services. Thank you!

To learn more about aspects of intimate partner abuse take a look at our power and control wheel here.

By: Jemma Riedel-Johnson

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