Board members contribute to help families

Board members contribute to help families

By Alan Tyler, Board president,

Family Education and Support Services

In the life of Family Education and Support Services, 36 people have served on its Board of Directors.

I am proud to have served with many of them as we have expanded our programs to better serve the community.

I would like to share the stories of two people who left the Board earlier this year, one at the end of his term and the other to take on new duties at FESS.

And if you are interested in joining the Board, please contact me at or Executive Director Shelly Willis at


Bob Partlow has a long history in child welfare.

Bob and his wife Deanna, who have five children, also were foster parents for eight years. His time as a foster parent led him into a job with what was then the State’s Children’s Administration for more than 11 years, where he built support for foster and relative caregivers.

Bob, 72, joined FESS’ Board when he retired from the State in 2013. He served as the Board’s secretary until this July. In that role, he worked with his Board partners and staff to help guide FESS into the future.

“I feel grateful to have been on the Board during a time of growth, adding new programs to help even more people, serving them from a new facility in Tumwater and watching how the many FESS programs are making such a positive difference in the lives of adults and children,” he said.

Bob and Deanna also are deeply involved in Camp To Belong Washington, which reunites siblings separated by placement in different foster, relative or adoptive homes. One hundred campers each year enjoy a summer camp experience built around strengthening their sibling bonds.

Bob’s and Deanna’s passion for working with children extends to playing Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus throughout the year.

Bob is taking on a new role with FESS, including writing the newsletter. Starting with this inaugural issue, the Family Compass newsletter will be produced regularly to highlight the people and programs that make FESS the place to learn parenting skills and support parents in their challenging job of raising children. He and Deanna produced a similar statewide newsletter under a contract with the University of Washington for 13 years.

Bob believes strongly in the words of the author James Baldwin” “For these are all our children and we will profit by or pay for whatever they become.”
“So many children and their caregivers have benefitted by their connection to FESS,” Bob said. “I can hardly wait to see what the future holds for this amazing organization.”

Trista Mason joined the Board in 2011. Her term overlapped for six months with that of her husband Jay, former Board president and commander of the Tumwater Police Department.

Trista served as Board president for two years during a time of major program expansion and change in the organization.

Trista has always had a heart for helping children, earning degrees in psychology, sociology and recreation. She worked in group homes and therapeutic camps after college. She and Jay married in 2011 “and it was always part of the discussion right from the beginning that we would do foster care.”
They had their son Caleb, now 7, before they became licensed foster parents two years ago. Since that time, they have cared for 10 children. They are currently caregivers for two children in foster care, one of whom they may adopt.

“I think the passion for families is why I really like FESS,” she said. “Parenting is hard. All parents need classes and skills” to help them parent.

Some in our community think the work of FESS is helping only those parents who must fulfill a requirement for parenting classes. But the emphasis of FESS on developing parenting skills “for all parents” is a key part of the work, she said.

Trista left the Board to help manage FESS’ foster parent support activities. She has been the volunteer leader of a foster parent support group for two years.

“It will be exciting for me to find good new ways to support foster parents, and I really appreciate that we are making the investment in doing that,” she said.