VYFS to take on Chautauqua child care program

Vashon Youth & Family Services, in a move that will lead the agency in a new direction, plans to take over operation of the YMCA’s popular child care program at Chautauqua Elementary School beginning Jan. 1.

The Y of Greater Seattle, which has run the before- and after-school program for more than a decade, decided the program no longer penciled out, in large part because it’s a stand-alone project and the Y’s only one on Vashon, said Josh Sutton, branch executive for the West Seattle & Fauntleroy Y.

The Y and VYFS “have been in dialogue for a while,” Sutton said. “We’re thrilled about this development. Our local board didn’t want to walk away from serving families on the Island.”

VYFS’s board voted last week to take on the program, its first foray into providing direct child care services, said Diane Kjellberg, the agency’s interim executive director. One of the two employees at the program, Dalinda Vivero, made a presentation to the board about the Y program, its successes and the needs it fills, Kjellberg said.

“The board was very moved,” Kjellberg said. “For them, it just made so much sense to take this on.”

“We like to work with families who are in need of services,” she added. “This is definitely a program that is much needed on the Island.”

The Y is giving the Chautauqua program’s assets to VYFS, including some computers and other office supplies, Kjellberg said. It also plans to spend several months working with VYFS on the transition, helping the agency find funding sources and obtain its day care license, said VYFS board president Deanna Gildea.

“The YMCA has been fabulous in working with us on those issues,” she added.

Initially, little will change, Kjellberg said. Both the pricing structure and staff will remain the same.

Over time, however, VYFS hopes to have enough funding in place to provide more scholarships to families in need than the Y was able to offer, institute a sliding-fee scale and offer programs on Chautauqua’s late-arrival days, she said. It might also provide some of its parenting services or other programs to families enrolled in the child care program, she added.

The announcement comes in the wake of the Y’s decision about two years ago to close its gym on the Island and, before that, end its day care program — both of which took place at a former church on the corner of Vashon Highway and Gorsuch Road S.W. That building, purchased several years ago after a group of Islanders undertook an ambitious fundraising campaign, is still owned by the Y and is leased to VYFS, which runs its PlaySpace program at the site. The final dispensation of the building is still under discussion, Sutton said.

With the decision to turn the Chautauqua program over to VYFS, the Y will no longer offer any kind of services on Vashon. Sutton said that was a hard decision by the Y’s board to make.

“It’s never easy to make a decision where you have to walk away from a community you’ve been serving for so long,” he said. “But the key is to make sure that the kids and families you’re serving are going to continue to be served. ... And in that way, Vashon Youth & Family Services is such a good partner in this. We know ... the program’s going to be in good hands.”

Sutton said he hopes Islanders will rally behind VYFS and help the Island-based social service agency make the child care program thrive under its ownership.

“In the end, I think that the continued support of donors on the Island is going to be important to the sustainability of the program, but Vashon Youth & Family Services is situated to continue that support, to really draw that support,” he said.

The Y’s fundraising on Vashon “waned a bit after the closure of the building,” Sutton added. “I think this could rejuvenate support for that program.”

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