Dubbed the “Keeping Families Together Act,” and sponsored by Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, this legislation prioritizes preventative measures to keep children with their relatives throughout child welfare proceedings.
“If we truly have the children’s best interest at heart, then our goal should be the least traumatic outcome, and that is keeping children connected to their families,” said the Mukilteo Democrat, who serves on the House Children, Youth and Families Committee. “My bill focuses on keeping families together by ensuring that guardians have an opportunity to step up and take care of their family.”
Under current law, ending a dependency case does not require the termination of parental rights. There are provisions for other ways to end cases with guardianships, however, these options are seldom used.
This practice also has a disproportionate impact on Indigenous and Black children who are more likely than white children to be separated from their families.
Ortiz-Self’s measure will ensure that instead of defaulting to termination when a child in a dependency case cannot be returned home, the state should prioritize ending the case by keeping that child in their family and preserving the child’s family and community relationships. It will also help to reduce racial bias and inequities in the child welfare system.
“Keeping families together and supporting children by ensuring a more permanent and comfortable housing environment will give them better outcomes and more support in their future,” added Ortiz-Self.