Office Moms and Dads is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization based in Vancouver, Washington (USA). It is a grassroots program that stands on three premises: That community members can make a difference in the life and health of a foster child; that community members can help prevent burnout among social workers; and that by giving community members tangible access to the world of child welfare, more foster homes may be formed. The program continues to see exponential growth in Washington State, with interest from many other states as well. Office Moms & Dads believe that child welfare is everyone’s responsibility, and that everyone can do something to help.
The What: 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 Why: 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.
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.
Jen OlneyInformation Manager
Jen's passion for social justice lead her to volunteer as an Office Mom in 2014. She enjoyed the environment so much it lead to her working in a clerical role at DCYF before transitioning to staying home when starting a family.
Wanting to stay involved with the mission of caring for foster children, Jen came on board as the information manager at Office Moms and Dads in early 2017.
In her spare time, Jen enjoys writing, cooking, and spending time with her husband and baby boy.
Karly BradburyKeeper of the Books
Karly Bradbury is a Midwest native, but fell in love with the Vancouver area at the age of 10. Even at that young age she knew she wanted to live, work, and contribute to the beauty and people of the region.
After five years of living in Vancouver and through relationships forged in faith and friendship, she happily joins Office Moms & Dads as Bookkeeper. It is her hope to support the incredible efforts of OMD and proudly serve the community.
Karly has a background in Business Administration & Financial Compliance and in her spare time finds endless adventures as a stepmom to two terrific kids and wife to an adoring husband. She can often be found crafting, baking, singing, painting, and exploring the Pacific Northwest on her motorcycle.
Darcy BlankenshipHub Leader, Southwest, Washington
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!
Sarah WicksHub Leader, Treasure Valley, Idaho
Sarah Wicks is a former elementary school teacher who now works from home for a K-12 educational technology company. Working from home has many perks but can be somewhat isolating, so she sought ways to volunteer in order to engage more deeply with her community.
Office Moms and Dads is the perfect fit because the program fills a tangible need, and the organization's values align with Sarah's passion for children and social justice. The work is sometimes difficult but always rewarding, and she has been so excited to see the organization grow roots in Idaho.
When Sarah isn't conducting Excel wizardry for work or fielding requests for Office Moms and Dads, she spends her time with her husband and two children on their microfarm that they share with four horses, one cow, one pygmy goat, two dogs, and too many chickens to count. Sarah enjoys hunting, camping, and basically any activity that takes her out of cell range. She also likes knitting when she can find the time.
Erin GreeneHub Leader, Snohomish, Washington
Erin’s journey toward joining Office Moms and Dads started about 6 years ago, when her mom became a foster parent suddenly to one of her 5th grade students. The little girl lived with her mom for three and a half months during which time Erin was very involved with caring for her.
This experience opened Erin’s eyes to the foster care system and the great need for our community to come together and help the ever-growing number of foster children in our state.
Erin’s desire to “take action” and to help these children continued to grow over the years and in 2015, she had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Honduras, where she served students in poverty at an inner city school and an orphanage. The trip was organized by SowingRoots, an amazing nonprofit in Tacoma, WA that provides grants to families trying to adopt locally and internationally. Erin’s experience with SowingRoots in Honduras was a catalyst for her and inspired her to become more involved in her own community upon her return. Over the next couple of years, Erin worked closely with SowingRoots, and promoted their mission up in Edmonds, WA.
She attended local foster care network meetings on their behalf, where she met people who shared the same passion as her. From relationships created at these meetings, Erin formed a partnership with Fostering Together and with the support of SowingRoots, she was able to organize and plan a Christmas party for local foster children, which has become an annual tradition. In addition to her partnership with Fostering Together, the local foster care network meetings led Erin to learn about the mission of Office Moms and Dads and the need for a volunteer coordinator at the Lynnwood office. In February 2017, Erin joined the OMD team as the Volunteer Coordinator at the Lynnwood office. She is passionate about being part of the solution to the foster care crisis in our state through providing support to the hardworking social workers and loving care to the children that enter the system.
In her free time, Erin stays busy taking her two boys to all their sporting events, and enjoys spending time at Mt. Baker with her family.