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Cynthia Vanderwolk happy with her kids. Photo courtesy Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families

Motivated mom reunited with her three sons | Unsung Hero

It's powerful to fight for those we love

Seattle’s Child is proud to partner with the state Department of Children, Youth and Families Strengthening Families Washington to honor outstanding caregivers doing important work on behalf of children. Throughout February, we’ll introduce you to Unsung Heroes from around the state: biological parents, grandparents, foster and adoptive parents. Some volunteer at local schools; some have started nonprofits; some mentor others in their communities. Enjoy the stories of 2024’s unsung heroes. 

NOTE: Seattle’s Child is running these stories unedited, as written by the people who nominated them, in keeping with the DCYF Unsung Hero process.

See all the Unsung Heroes of DCYF on the Seattle’s Child Community page.


Cynthia Vanderwolk, Spokane

Cynthia Vanderwolk was referred to our program when her youngest son was 2 weeks old, we met with her and she was very uninterested in the program and not ready at that time to commit to her recovery.

A few months later, we were contacted again by her peer support, referring her to our residential program. She had completed treatment and was looking for a residential program. I had a lot of hesitation due to our prior encounters and concern about her not being ready for a residential program. Cynthia, my director, her peer support, and I had a conference call, and even over the phone, she sounded like a new person! She was hopeful and focused and was able to express her goals. I heard the change in her voice.

Shortly after, she joined HJRA’s residential program, and from day one, she was committed and dedicated to her growth and success. As her case manager, I saw her week by week flourish and set new goals. She was very motivated to reunite with her three sons, and through hard work, reunification happened with her youngest son first, and increased visitation and overnights with her two other children.

While in our program, she completed IOP, parenting classes, counseling, sponsor step work, and weekly relapse prevention meetings for her growth and stability and also to create a strong foundation for her and her children. She was able to complete our program and move into her own apartment in October with her three sons. She currently attends the Parent Advisory Group with DCYF as well as a co-chair member of the Early Childhood Intervention Program.

Cynthia will be working alongside other parents navigating CPS starting in January as a Parent 4 Parent Advocate, and we are so proud of her achievements and growth this past year!

— Desiree Crawford, Health and Justice Recovery Alliance

More Unsung Heroes:

Kristin Weddle exemplifies what Parents as Teachers stands for

Mindy Livingston has made foster care her life’s mission

Dedicated single mom of 6 also helps parents facing tough times

Chelsea Hope is a model of resilience and a gem of a person

Sandra Stokes is a guardian angel to new moms

About the Author

Seattle Child Staff

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