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CHSW and Childhaven merger

Adoption candidates in the 1930s. Photo Courtesy Children's Home Society of Washington

Seattle’s CHSW and Childhaven merge

Now called 'Akin,' they'll be one of WA's largest family services providers

Two of Washington state’s oldest and most influential child and family support organizations announced their merger on Jan. 3 to become one of Washington’s largest family services providers. Seattle-based Children’s Home Society of Washington (CHSW) and White Center-based Childhaven have gathered resources to become Akin.  

The merger between the two historic nonprofits will allow the organizations to meet their original missions and charters: To prevent childhood and family crises, help families remain together by providing needed support, disrupt systemic and multi-generational cycles of inequity, and bolster child and family health and well-being. 

CHSW and Childhaven merger

1942 nursery at Children’s Home Society of Washington. Photo courtesy Children’s Home Society of Washington

More than 240 years of combined experience

Children’s Home Society of Washington was founded in 1896 as the state’s first adoption agency and later became a national leader in residential care for youth, foster care, the foster-to-adopt option, family support services and centers, early childhood education, and more. Organization leaders have been crucial to the passage of legislation benefitting kids and families since its inception. The organization has been lauded for helping to create America’s adoption system. More than 28,000 adoptions were facilitated by CHSW before it stopped offering that service.

Childhaven was founded in 1909 to provide childcare for working mothers kept away from their homes all day. Through the decades, it, too, has evolved with the needs of children and families. It offers child and family counseling, early learning and support for infants and toddlers, and community-based programs to support children and families in the places where they live, learn, and play. Those programs include RAYS UP youth mentoring, Kaleidoscope Play and Learn groups, and healthcare integration services embedded within pediatric primary care. Childhaven is recognized for having helped establish the nation’s child protective services system. 

CHSW and Childhaven merger

The original Seattle Day Nursery became Childhaven, now Akin. Photo courtesy Childhaven

Recognizing past harms

Through more than a century of care, both organizations evolved their services based on research evidence or innovations deemed best practice at the time. Today, they, like most child welfare organizations, recognize the institutional racism and inequality present in some of those services throughout their histories. As Akin, they’ve vowed to do better.

In a release, the new Akin: “Each organization focused on expanding resources with good intentions and acknowledges their historical approach has had unintended consequences, with a disproportionately negative impact on non-white children. Moving forward, Akin will address the systems that caused this unintended harm.” 

Combining power and budgets to grow programs that work

According to organization leaders, merging into one entity will help grow such programs and innovate others.

The creation of Akin “allows us to grow and evolve as one organization, not for the sake of size but for the scope of direct impact in how Akin can partner with parents, caregivers, children, and communities, together, to strengthen families,” former CHSW, now Akin CEO Dave Newell said in the release. “Our connection to families is foundational, yet the existing child well-being system ultimately leads to often unnecessary and harmful family separation through crisis intervention. Instead, we aim to understand the unique stressors and needs of each family to provide more concrete support and ideally prevent that crisis from occurring in the first place.” 

Keeping families healthy with support and connection. Photo courtesy Childhaven

Current programs and services will continue

Akin will continue the work of CHSW and Childhaven in serving as a first line of support to families. All programs that ran at the merger partners independently will continue under the Akin banner. Together, the organizations cover:

  • behavioral health and child and family counseling services; 
  • early learning and developmental support for infants and toddlers; parenting education and developing family support networks; 
  • workforce development initiatives to help grow, diversify, and better support the child and family-serving workforce; 
  • and mentorship for parents with children temporarily in the foster care system, 
  • strengthening families so they can move toward reunification. 

But the merger will also allow the new organization to offer a broader range of resources in more locations across Washington state than either organization could. The goal? To provide the connection, counseling, and wrap-around support and services that help families stay intact and keep kids out of the foster care system wherever possible.

“Research supports that children and their families do better when they are able to stay together with the right supports in place to meet their needs,” said Jody Levison-Johnson, PhD, LCSW, president and CEO of Social Current. Levison-Johnson added, “Akin brings together the skills and knowledge of two purpose-driven organizations to partner with families and offer an array of supports and services that will help them to achieve their goals.” Social Current is a merger of the former Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the former Council on Accreditation, which accredits nonprofit child family service organizations like CHSW and Childhaven. 

Why Akin?

“We know that families receiving concrete support like rental assistance, utilities, food, or other financial help are less likely to be reported to child welfare authorities and more likely to have greater well-being,” said Newell. “We’re sending a message with our new name, that kinship care – care of children by their families – is key to success. We believe that there is no right way to be a family, but there is a right way to stand with them. When families can access the support they need, when they need it, both children and caregivers will thrive.” 

With an operating budget of about $50 million, the merged organization will have over 450 employees in locations across Washington state and will serve upwards of 23,000 children and families each year.  

For more information about newly formed Akin, go to the organization’s website akinfamily.org

Read more:

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About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for NestingInstinctsSeattle.com and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at Compasswriters.com.