Playspace is now the VYFS Family Place!

We've changed our name, and will  be moving to the lower level of the old Playspace building at 9822 SW Gorsuch Rd. 

We are temporarily closed while we move into the new space. We will reopen on Monday, July 17th for regular programming - please see the Family Place page for a full schedule.  

And you are invited to an Open House on Tuesday, July 25th, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. New families are encouraged to stop by and meet staff. Current families and alum are welcomed to come by and see our changes!

What is VYFS Reading This Summer?

Ah summer! Time to relax and enjoy random bouts of sunshine. If you are like many here at VYFS, you love to add summer reading to your (very limited) summer to-do list. We thought you might enjoy book recommendations from VYFS. It turns out our diverse staff celebrates reading of everything from children's adventure tales to escapist mysteries to serious social and health issues. Here is what we are reading. Enjoy!

Barbara Garrett, Clinical Director: The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling, by Jeanne Safer.

 Charlotte Tiencken, Administrative Assistant, Grant Writer: Welcome to Braggsville, by T. Geronimo Jones. It is being turned into a play by Book-It Repertory Theatre (where she used to work). It is a wonderful novel about race, how we perceive ourselves and stereotypes about race and gender.

Deborah Rieschl, Case Manager: Pippi on the Run, by Astrid Lindgren. I always have a Pippi book nearby to read. I’m also reading Oppose and Purpose; Lessons from the Movement for a New Society by Andrew Cornell, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, Emma Goldman; Revolution as a way of Life by Vivian Gornick, and Living in Liberation by Cristien Strom.

Greg Thompson, Counselor-Case Manager: The Adventures of Augie March, by Saul Bellow, a classic from the 50’s about some folks kicking around in poverty, using artful, creative ways to exist (some not so great), during the Great Depression.

Julia Akoury-Thiel, Counselor-Case Manager:  Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, a wonderful book on how medicine can, and should, not only improve health, but also improve the process of living and dying at the end of a person’s life. Really worth a read.

Julia Akoury-Thiel and Barbara Garrett: Are both reading “escapist fiction,” mystery novels by: Charles Todd (historical mystery novels, well-researched, engaging and unpredictable) and Victoria Thompson (Gaslight series).

Katherine Steen, Counselor-Case Manager: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk.

Kathleen Barry Johnson, Executive Director: On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century, by Timothy Snyder and Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson. I listen to books on tape constantly so I always have two or more books in the works. 

Karen Lomax, Accounting Administrative Assistant: Sister’s Choice, by Emilie Richards, about a woman who is being a surrogate for her sister who can’t have children.  The author is trained as a family development therapist and does a great job discussing difficult topics and creating characters with a lot of depth.

Kim Newall, Counselor-Case Manager: The Day the Crayons Quit, by Daywalt and Jeffers; since it takes about 10 minutes to read I have moved on to The Day the Crayons Came home (Kim recommends coloring while reading, but not in the book).

Laura Rollins, Fundraising Administrative AssistantRattle, a contemporary bi-monthly poetry journal featuring contemporary poetry and essays across all genres, and The Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margo Livesey, a light summer read set in Scotland and Iceland.

Lisa Fraser, Counselor-Case Manager: Maud: A Novel, by Melanie J. Fishbane, “a fictional portrait of the teenage years of Anne of Green Gables author L.M. Montgomery.” It stayed true to Montgomery’s journal account of that time period.  A poignant read.

Roderick McClain, Human Resources Administrative Assistant: We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I can’t recommend We Should All Be Feminists highly enough- it’s a quick, insightful look into this author’s experiences growing up in Nigeria and later living and working in the US.

Susan Day, Finance and Human Resources Manager: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, about grass-roots, do-able solutions for climate change. I appreciate having options that might give us hope.


We are thrilled to announce that VYFS is one of 17 non-profit organizations to receive a King County Best Starts For Kids grant.  

VYFS Executive Director Kathleen Johnson with King County Executive Dow Constantine

VYFS Executive Director Kathleen Johnson with King County Executive Dow Constantine

This morning, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the awarding of more than $860,000 in funding from Best Starts For Kids, for projects that will improve access to healthy foods, safe environments and health care on Vashon‐Maury Island.  Vashon Youth & Family Services received a $100,000 grant from King County’s Best Starts for Kids (BSK) program to create healthier environments for Island children. The remaining funding is part of an award to Neighborcare Health and Vashon Island School District to create a School‐Based Health Center.

“This represents a substantial new investment on Vashon by King County,” said Kathleen Johnson, VYFS Executive Director. “VYFS and many others have been working with the County to help them understand the significant needs Islanders face. We are grateful to know that the County understands our needs and has taken this bold step to address them.”

VYFS is one of 17 non‐profits that successfully competed for 1.7 million in funding to help create safer, healthier environments for children and youth throughout King County. The grant that VYFS has received will go to fund the work of the Vashon Early Learning Coalition (VELC), a group of early childcare providers. VELC members will work with VYFS’ Family Education and Support Services (FESS) program to help improve their support of Island children and families. 

“VELC members will receive training in areas like increasing access to healthy foods, injury prevention, safe gun and medicine storage,” said Johnson. “We will provide the childcare providers with training for themselves, and material and information to pass on to families they serve.”

“The work is an opportunity for us to partner with other organizations like The Dove Project and Vashon Island Growers Association (VIGA) to give our members tools for building safe, welcoming and healthful environments for the kids they serve.”

Another crucial part of the project is to help increase the number of licensed childcare slots for families with young children. Currently on Vashon Island, there is a critical lack of access to fully licensed, safe, full-day childcare. In a community of over 10,000 people, there are only two fully licensed providers, serving only 22 children.  These two providers are the only providers on Island able to accept DSHS subsidies to support low-income families.

VYFS will support VELC members who wish to pursue their Early Achievers certification.  VELC will work to support care givers in the use of evidence-based practices, bringing them closer to state standards and assisting in overcoming licensing barriers and pursuing full certification. Through VELC, FESS staff will “train the trainers”, meeting with care givers to increase their capacity for parent education.   

VYFS’ work through VELC will:

  • promote healthy eating at childcare centers and in homes through a partnership with Vashon Island Grower’s Association (VIGA)
  • promote safer childcare centers and home environments with a focus on poison prevention and gun safety
  • encourage increased physical activity in young children
  • promote safer home environments

Best Starts for Kids is a King County voter-approved initiative that will fund programs aimed at youth and families for years to come. BSK will generate up to $400 million over the next six years. Through a process of Requests for Proposal (RFP), the county will invest this funding in programs that help put every baby born and every child raised in King County on a path toward lifelong success. Community-based organizations, schools and others can apply for funding. Multiple RFPs will be issued in 2017 and beyond, that could positively impact Island services.  VYFS intends to continue to pursue these and other opportunities to positively impact and further our agency mission. 

“Best Starts for Kids is really a transformative opportunity for the children, youth and young adults of King County. As an agency that is dedicated to the welfare of all people on Vashon, we see this as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build real capacity to grow programs to help every Island child thrive. We are grateful that King County has seen the importance of supporting this community,” said Johnson.