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Sanctuary helps kids entering foster care — if it has enough volunteers to stay open

Emergency sanctuary will provide safe transition for foster kids

A look inside Pierce County's first emergency sanctuary, where children entering the foster care system can receive up to 72 hours of temporary care before being placed in a permanent home. It's empty now, but by December it's expected to take in
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A look inside Pierce County's first emergency sanctuary, where children entering the foster care system can receive up to 72 hours of temporary care before being placed in a permanent home. It's empty now, but by December it's expected to take in

A nonprofit that provides emergency housing to Pierce County children entering the foster care system is struggling to stay open around the clock and needs more volunteers, the organization’s local director said Wednesday.

Amara’s “emergency sanctuary,” which opened in December in Tacoma, relies on a combination of full-time staff and volunteers to stay open, with volunteers each picking up one eight-hour shift per month.

“We have a great group of volunteers at the sanctuary, with people who are dedicated,” said Maureen Sorenson, Amara’s Pierce County director. “We have an urgent need for more volunteers.”

The sanctuary is intended to host children entering the foster care system before they can be permanently placed, a process that can last for up to three days days and often leaves children waiting in their social workers’ cubicles all day in the mean time.

“When you come, you get to see through the eyes of kids those issues that are prevalent in the community,” Sorenson said, noting the effects of poverty, homelessness and substance abuse on the children.

The home includes four bedrooms, a kitchen and a space for volunteers, and it can house up to five children at a time. More than 80 kids have been hosted there, from infants through 17-year-olds, since it opened, Sorenson said.

Last year, Pierce County had about 1,300 children in foster homes, with more than 400 housed outside the county.

The sanctuary is funded through philanthropy. Amara, based in Seattle, planned a $150,000 initial investment in the program and an annual operating budget of $525,000.

Anyone interested in volunteering with Amara can contact Annelise Cohen at annelise@amaraputskidsfirst.org or 253-235-4875.

Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker

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