Office Moms & Dads, a nonprofit organization, is a community of qualified volunteers partnering with child welfare offices to provide a nurturing environment for children entering foster care.
Office Moms & Dads’ 5-year vision is to establish and sustain sites throughout Washington and Idaho where children entering care transition with minimal trauma into their foster care placement.
Sarah Desjarlais and Kim Karu are two very different people, but that’s what makes their partnership really work.
Sarah, a foster parent and community activist, found herself in a meeting at the child welfare offices of her hometown in Vancouver, Washington planning a graduation party for the class of 2013. It was during that meeting that Sarah witnessed a little boy sitting in a conference room. The meal that his social worker had purchased for him was sitting untouched on the table, and his Care Box lay open, haphazardly gone through. This 9 year old boy seemed to sink into the chair he occupied. He sat there alone, in every sense of the word. His social worker sat across the hall in a cubicle, feverishly working the phone, trying to find him a suitable placement, a place he could call home.
In the same breath, Sarah witnessed two small sisters giggling, running full speed through the office, their social worker in hot pursuit. It occurred to her how hard it would be to do the things required of a social worker while constantly being pulled in all directions, to find them a new home, and to entertain them while the search continues and sometimes for hours. Sarah immediately felt that there must be something that could be done to ease the situation for the child (ren) and the social worker.
Weeks later at the Graduation Party, Kim was working the room with a photographer’s eye, her Nikon810 in hand. Kim, a CPS Social Worker by day and photographer by night, was lending her talent at the party taking pictures for the graduates. Sarah was delivering gift baskets that had been donated by the community and the two struck up a conversation.
The beginning of OMD was in the works the moment a question was posed: What would happen if the community could provide childcare in the office?
The stars aligned, and the rest is history. Together with a team of 5 gracious volunteers, Kim and Sarah launched Office Moms & Dads. New lessons were learned each day as they forged ahead with an idea that had never been tried before in the world of child welfare.
Sarah Desjarlais has always had a deep commitment to social justice. She began her professional career as a Community Involvement Specialist for a local coffee shop and quickly fell in love with giving back to her community.
Recruited by a local engineering firm to work as their Public Involvement Coordinator, Sarah obtained skills that she would later carry over into the founding and creating of Office Moms & Dads.
Sarah and her husband, an enrolled member of the Chippewa Cree tribe, began their journey as foster parents in 2009 when, in a whirlwind of providential circumstances, they took placement of two sweet babies. Now, years later they have had the great privilege of adopting three of their five children through foster care. Sarah continues to provide respite to local foster families while staying attuned to the unique needs of the Clark County DCYF office.
In balancing the duties of Executive Director for Office Moms & Dads and the rigors of raising five kids, Sarah enjoys sewing, cooking, and walking the beautiful streets of her downtown community.
Kim Karu’s passion for working with people was fostered during her years at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and put into action after graduation when she began working
with children in the Head Start program.
That experience of watching how internal and external forces impact a child’s development led Kim to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work, at Eastern Washington University extension campus in Vancouver, WA.
After receiving her advanced degree, Kim became a Child protective Services Social Worker with the Washington department of Social and Health Services in 2008. Her concern for the children served by the state agency goes beyond traditional office hours. After their chance encounter, long conversations, and realizing a need in the community Kim and Sarah Desjarlais teamed up to create Office Moms and Dads. OMD has been growing tremendously throughout Washington State and slowly in other States.
In her free time, Kim enjoys exploring not just the Pacific Northwest, but road trips and camping for new adventures across the nation. This is a chance for Kim to spend time with friends and family and indulge in her second profession for photography.
Amie McKey grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to the Pacific Northwest 14 years ago. The first time she visited Vancouver, Washington with her husband, she knew this is where she wanted to plant roots and raise her growing family.
I’m a native Oregonian, transplanted to Vancouver in 1980. I’m a mom and a Nana to a fantastic family located from Vancouver to West Virginia. I am also a dog mom to Winny the Pug. I recently retired following 32 years of Federal government service, as a program analyst.
Organization, attention to details, and building relationships with others in the agency were key skills to successfully providing information needs to our organization.
I joined OMD as an Office Mom in 2014. Sarah Desjarlais, a co-founder, and I attended the same church so I’d heard about the program from its beginning and was excited to participate in caring for the kids. In 2016, I became the Vancouver Volunteer Coordinator. I believe in the mission of caring for the children entering foster care and creating more time for the social workers engaged in helping them; this makes it easy to help recruit new volunteers!
Marleen heard about Office Moms & Dads through her local church, and realized there was not a program in Shelton. She became the Volunteer Coordinator and OMD Shelton launched in January 2017.
As a result of seeing the overwhelming need for more foster homes and more support for existing foster families, she left her position teaching preschoolers to focus on building community support to foster kids and families. It’s encouraging to see the community stepping up to serve our kids!
Marleen and her husband are almost empty nesters! They have four children; their two oldest sons have moved into their adult lives and they have two high school kids remaining at home. They enjoy playing games, hiking, sharing meals, and trips to the ocean.
What & Why
OMD is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in Vancouver, Washington (USA) in 2013. OMD deploys qualified volunteers to child welfare offices throughout Washington and Idaho who sit with and entertain children who have just been removed from their homes - children who have undergone unspeakable trauma. Our volunteers serve in their local child welfare office on an on-call basis, and strive to make the day just a little bit better for both child and social worker.
The average child can wait in a child welfare office anywhere from three to five hours after being taken into protective custody. Meanwhile, social workers frantically search for a suitable foster home or relative to care for them. The wait after a removal can be one of the most frightening and uncertain times in a child’s life. Our volunteers help alleviate stress on social workers, care for the immediate needs of the child, and serve the foster care community in a tangible way. The time commitment for volunteers is flexible, but the impact is monumental.