Community Youth Services empowers youth at-risk and their families to meet their goals for safety, stability, belonging and success by providing a continuum of individualized services and advocacy.
We envision every child growing up in a supportive home and community and achieving their full potential for personal growth.
Community Youth Services was founded in 1970 as the Thurston Youth Services Society by a group of civic-minded citizens who had observed increasing numbers of youth who were becoming involved in the criminal justice system. The late 1960s had ushered in a youthful revolution that had turned conventional values upside down. Adolescent rebellion had manifested itself in drug use and a distrust of traditional institutions and authority. As these new patterns crept into Olympia and Thurston County, citizens became concerned, and local leaders set out to establish a youth-friendly organization that would appeal to vulnerable and marginalized youth. These visionary founders included Carl Reder, Bob Macleod, Paul Zach, Jody Veatch, and the late Rev. Howard Perry.
The agency’s first director was Betty Hasard, and its first program was a teen drop-in center named The Third Eye. It was staffed primarily by volunteers, and it targeted youth who need a safe place to go after school. Housed in a residential structure on Union Street, the Third Eye remained a vital program for three years. At that time, the agency had a staff of four.
By the late seventies, the State of Washington had overhauled its juvenile justice system, and the Juvenile Justice Act of 1977 had de-criminalized many of the offenses that were committed by youth. These included truancy, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and running away. Now there was a new mandate for community-based services, such as counseling and juvenile diversion, to be delivered to first-time juvenile offenders through non-profit agencies. Runaway youth could no longer be locked up; rather, they were to be offered intensive family crisis counseling. This, it was hoped, would help to keep teens from penetrating the juvenile justice system.
Betty Hasard was succeeded by three other directors — Jane Bogle, Bob Foster, and Roger Kurt — before Charles Shelan became the agency’s executive director in 1979. The following year, the agency moved from its original location to newly remodeled quarters in downtown Olympia. It quickly expanded by launching an innovative, federally supported employment and training program for youth, referred to as the CETA program.
In 1984, the Thurston Youth Services Society opened the first teen runaway shelter in the region, called Haven House. Later that year, a therapeutic foster care program was established under contract with the state’s Department of Social and Health Services.
A new name was adopted by the agency in 1989: Community Youth Services (CYS). Also that year, a newer home was purchased and remodeled for Haven House.
Throughout the 1990s, CYS initiated several new programs and expanded existing services. Notable additions included Readiness to Learn, AmeriCorps and R.I.S.E.Transitional Housing, among others.
By 2000, CYS had over fifty staff, and an operating budget of $4.5 million. It also had become nationally accredited through the Council on Accreditation for Services for Families and Children. But the agency’s expanding programs had outgrown its office space capacity. CYS was faced with a decision: Where can we go that will accommodate future growth?
In late 2000, the Board of Directors voted to initiate a $2.5 million capital campaign to support the purchase and remodel of an existing, 20,000 square foot service center to house its programs. The campaign attracted support from over 250 individual, corporate, government, and foundation donors, and was successfully completed in 2001. CYS moved to its new home in December of 2001. The new building was also large enough to accommodate other related, non-profit services such as Garden Raised Bounty, The Refugee and Immigrant Services Center, the Choice for Change School, and the Thurston County Literacy Network.
Two years later, concerned with the ever-increasing number of street-dependent youth and young adults in the greater Olympia area, CYS collaborated with numerous community partners to open Rosie’s Place, an on-site, daytime drop-in and resource center. In its first year, Rosie’s Place provided meals, counseling, case management, and medical and mental health services to more than 900 young people.
In 2006, CYS received the Organization of the Year Award from LEAD Thurston County, a leadership division of the Greater Olympia Chamber of Commerce. The following year, the South Sound Business Examiner recognized CYS as the Top Non Profit Workplace within its five-county readership area. In 2009, CYS received a three-year federal grant to launch a YouthBuild program and also was named the Non-Profit of the Year by the Thurston County Economic Development Council.
Today, Community Youth Services is the largest child welfare agency serving southwest Washington, employing 75 staff and supporting 120 volunteers. A fifteen-member Board of Directors oversees policy for the agency. Seventeen interrelated programs serve more than 3,000 children, youth and families throughout Thurston, Mason, Lewis and Grays Harbor counties. The original programs — Juvenile Diversion, CareerTREK, Haven House, and Therapeutic Foster Care — continue to be effective, vital components of the agency. Other current programs include Independent Living Skills, Street Outreach, Family Preservation, Family Reconciliation, and Foster Care Assessment Program. The agency also provides 80 AmeriCorps slots for public and non-profit agencies throughout six southwest Washington counties.
Community Youth Services is a member of the National Network of Youth, the Washington State Children’s Alliance, the Northwest Network for Youth, and the Washington State Coalition of Children’s Residential Services. CYS is largely supported through contracts and grants with the federal, state and local governments. Individual donations, private and corporate grants, and United Way chapters in Thurston, Mason, Lewis, and Grays Harbor counties also support CYS programs.