OLYMPIA – Representative Ruth Kagi (D-Seattle) is launching an effort to reimagine and support the foster care system in our state. This effort includes policies and funding that support reform, and increase support for children, foster parents, and parents over the next biennium.
“Every child deserves the opportunity to reach for their dreams, but for too many children and youth involved in the child dependency system, they don’t have the support or stability to succeed,” said Rep. Kagi. “We are making historic and needed investments in K-12 education, but these investments will fall flat for some of our most vulnerable children and young people if we don’t also make needed changes and investments in our foster care system.”
Almost 50% of children in out-of-home care in 2016 moved at least twice. Moving from home to home disrupts educational progress and create instability. Data from Children’s Administration show that, in 2014, children in foster care in Washington experienced 5.21 moves per 1,000 days in care, worse than the national standard of 4.12 moves per 1,000 days.
Along with a general decrease in the number of foster homes, the acuity of the children in care has increased, leaving many young people with no place to stay. According to the Children’s Administration. In 2015, 194 kids generated 820 nights’ worth of hotel stays.
“With nearly 200 young people staying in hotels, many of them for multiple nights, it is clear that Washington is facing a serious challenge assuring that foster children have a safe, stable place to call home,” said Rep. Kagi. “I am advocating for policies and funding that value and respect foster parents, increase stability and permanency for children, reunify families where possible, and support young people as they transition into adulthood.”
Reimagining Foster Care will take policy changes and funding. Here is a list of the top budget priorities this year. Some of the policy changes being proposed include:
HB 1661, sponsored by Rep. Kagi, creates the Department of Children, Youth and Families to emphasize prevention, and increase accountability for improving outcomes for young people and families. A single agency will be better able to provide effective services at the right time, not always waiting until a crisis occurs.
HB 1251, sponsored by Rep. Frame (D-Seattle), which will make sure that all children have the right to be represented by an attorney at all stages of a dependency proceeding. All children deserve to be represented by council when life-altering decisions regarding dependency are being made.
HB 1867, sponsored by Rep. Fey (D-Tacoma), will give kids in foster care a better chance at successfully launching into adulthood by offering extended foster care to more young people between the ages of 18-21.
HB 1628, sponsored by Rep. Kagi, will help young people in foster care graduate from high school. High school can be challenging for most young people, but students in foster care face additional barriers to getting a high school diploma. Getting a diploma opens up many opportunities for success.
HB 1808, sponsored by Rep. Clibborn (D-Mercer Island), sets up support for young people in foster care to navigate the process of getting a driver’s permit and eventually a license. A driver’s license can be essential to attending college or holding a job.