Continued Growth and Change in 2018

Posted by on Jan 4, 2018 in Blog, Featured Stories |

By Jamila Larson, Executive Director

Happy New Year!

As we take stock of 2017 and plan for the New Year, we are grateful for the volunteers, supporters and friends of Playtime who make stories like this one in the Washington Informer newspaper possible. In addition to giving the gift of play all year long through 18 weekly programs, you helped us give personalized gifts to 621 children and youth in six shelters and transitional housing programs this holiday season!

Photo by Christina Eckhart

This year will be one of continued growth and change. As the city moves forward with plans to decentralize homeless services for families away from D.C. General, we are busy researching options for program transition to ensure we’re well prepared for when the city’s largest shelter closes. We will, of course, continue to provide programming for children at Turning Point Center for Women & Children, DASH Cornerstone Program, and the Quality Inn overflow shelter.

This month, we are continuing with our Strategic Planning process with our Board of Directors to plan for how best to meet our mission during this time of transition and opportunity. We are fortunate to have an incredible team of pro bono partners from Compass by our side analyzing our options: Will Playtime expand to any of the seven future replacement shelters, find a home in other existing shelters, or expand outside of the District? This year, we expect to answer these questions so we can continue to serve children experiencing homelessness in an impactful way, wherever they are.

Our partnership with Fair Chance, through their inaugural Impact Academy, is helping us strengthen our Playtime curriculum and outcome-reporting metrics so we can better measure impact. This year, we’re becoming more intentional about building resilience for children and youth through strengthening social-emotional and problem-solving skills. If our ultimate goal is to help prevent the children we serve from becoming homeless as adults, we can best do that by focusing on these skills that are research-based and supported by our programming model. Nurturing a sense of optimism through exposure to new opportunities and strengthening language development and early childhood education enrollment are also important pieces of the resilience puzzle.

Photo by Christina Eckhart

I look forward to sharing these developments with you as we work together to fight to protect childhood for young people experiencing homelessness in our nation’s capital.

As a testament to the power of Playtime, I’m pleased to share that next month we will celebrate the ribbon-cutting of the renovated and now child-friendly lobby at the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center, which is the first stop for families experiencing homelessness in the District. The Playtime Project connected Horizons for Homeless Children with the city’s Department of Human Services and helped them create a plan for making the city’s homeless family intake center more child-friendly. And to further promote the needs of children, we are serving on several committees to advise the city on strengthening case management services for children and families with the goal of making future family shelters trauma-informed and responsive to children’s needs.

Thank you for your support, counsel, and partnership to make our work and play possible!

Jamila ran Playtime as a volunteer since it was founded in 2003 and assumed the role as first full-time Executive Director in 2009. In 2012, she was named a Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine for her leadership of Playtime.