LEGISLATIVE NEWS – Chapman and Tharinger: Progress for local courts on family and kids

OLYMPIA—Grays Harbor County is the first since 2008 to join a statewide effort to improve family and juvenile courts.

“It’s great to see the 24th District continue to push for progress when it comes to taking care of kids and families in the legal system,” said Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles. “Of the ten counties already participating, two of them—Clallam and Jefferson—are also in our district.”

Grays Harbor is joining the Family & Juvenile Court Improvement Program, which supports local courts with funding, training, and support. It’s especially timely as the courts are about to implement a major reform, the Keeping Families Together Act (House Bill 1227), which takes effect this July.

That law passed by the Legislature in 2021 by a vote of 97-9 in the House and 48-1 in the Senate. It requires that courts take an active role in determining placement of children legally removed from their home, prioritizing placement with relatives and other suitable people.

If that’s not possible and a child is placed in foster care, the law creates new procedures to help judges and court officials determine a foster care placement that keeps children safely connected with familiar people and places.

The improvement program will also help Grays Harbor—along with other participating counties—implement future legislative changes and new court decisions related to family law and children.

“These are some of the toughest cases, both for families and the courts,” said Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend. “This program and the new law will help our local courts do a better job for kids and their families. And with the Keeping Families Together Act, that’s the ultimate goal: safely reuniting a child with their family.”