YWCA Is First in Utah and First YWCA in U.S. to Achieve Sanctuary Certification

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YWCA Is First in Utah and First YWCA in U.S. to Achieve Sanctuary Certification

Categories: News, Press

Salt Lake City, February 26, 2020 – YWCA Utah announced today that after nearly four years of sustained effort, it has achieved certification in the trauma-informed Sanctuary Model—and that it is the first organization in Utah and the first YWCA in the United States to reach this significant milestone.  Sanctuary implementation is a major component in the YWCA’s long-term strategic direction, and reaching certification is a key objective in its goal to become a model workplace.

YWCA staff leadership initiated conversations about the Sanctuary Model in 2014, as they anticipated the 40th anniversary of the YWCA’s pioneering domestic violence work in Utah. By May 2016 they had secured the support of the YWCA Board of Directors as well as seed funding from major community partners including the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, the LDS Foundation, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah, and the Steiner Foundation. These friends stepped forward with confidence that the YWCA had the strength, stability, and leadership to successfully undertake deep and transformational change. Implementation began in July, 2016.

YWCA Utah CEO Anne Burkholder commented, “The nature and impact of the work we have chosen to do—particularly with child and adult trauma survivors—compels us to think deeply and differently about how we work together and support one another.  Constant, daily exposure to severe trauma has far-reaching consequences not only for survivors but also for staff who care for them and strive to meet their needs, and for the organizations that offer programs focused on healing and a hopeful future. Sanctuary brings a transformative framework for sustaining a safe, healthy, and hopeful environment for everyone in our YWCA community.”

Alejandra Y. Castillo, CEO of YWCA USA, said, “YWCA Utah has long been considered an exemplary YWCA—true to mission, talented in leadership, and innovative in programming. By implementing the Sanctuary Model, they have reached another standard for excellence. We believe blueprints like this will help all of our associations as we move closer to a world where injustice is rooted out, institutions are transformed, and the world sees women, girls and people of color the way we do: Equal. Powerful. Unstoppable. We congratulate their entire staff and Board on this achievement and for doing the work of justice every day.”

Sanctuary certification requires a multi-year commitment to change how an organization does its work, as well as a clear intention to continue sustaining the model. It is particularly effective in human service organizations—such as the YWCA—that serve trauma survivors and experience the impact of daily exposure to severe trauma on staff and the organization as a whole. The model comprises four pillars: trauma theory, a process framework, value commitments, and an extensive toolkit. Over nearly four years, YWCA staff have undergone extensive training and engaged in intensive practice to reach the standards of excellence set by the Sanctuary Institute.

Dr. Brian Miller,  a statewide leader in mental health and trauma, said,  “Amidst tremendous challenges—when ample opportunity existed to proclaim that all available resources were needed just to persevere and serve the needs of the community through usual means, this courageous organization chose to transform itself. This takes vision and conviction. The YWCA is a community leader in showing us all how an organization can provide sanctuary to those who have experienced trauma, how to provide psychological safety for the staff doing this work, and how the entire service system can be aligned to provide safety and sanctuary in troubled circumstances.  It took many people demonstrating not only vision, but grit to make this transformation.  As a member of the community, I express not only my admiration, but my gratitude to the staff and leadership of the YWCA for accomplishing this profound milestone.”

Sandra L. Bloom, M.D., Co-Founder of the Sanctuary Model, said, “To all at the YWCA Utah, congratulations for your commitment to creating a trauma-informed organization as pacesetters in your area.”

YWCA Utah Board Chair Mary Anne Berzins added, “We know how hard YWCA staff have worked to achieve this milestone, we know the challenges they have overcome, and we are proud of them. Sanctuary is a process, not a destination, and our commitment lays a strong foundation for how we do our work in the years to come.”


YWCA Utah advances the well-being of women in Utah through safety, opportunity, and advocacy. Since 1906 YWCA Utah has advanced the well-being of women in key dimensions of their lives through direct programming, education, and advocacy designed to encourage their aspirations, protect their rights, and meet their changing needs. The YWCA’s enduring belief has been that better lives for all women lead to stronger families and communities. Current direct programming focuses on violence against women, early childhood education, and women’s leadership development. Research, education, and advocacy and public policy efforts focus on developing the Utah Women’s Well-Being Initiative. For more information, visit ywcautah.org.