This act would require the Department of Children, Youth, and Families to establish the Child Welfare Housing Assistance Program, beginning on July 1st, 2020.
This program shall provide families:
· Housing vouchers;
· Rental assistance;
· Housing navigation; and
· Other support services.
The Child Welfare Housing Assistance Program intends to shorten the time that children remain in out-of-home care and provide support to allow families to remain intact. Moreover, the funding provided may generally extend up to 2 years, and could extend beyond this timeframe for individuals who still do not have permanent housing or continue to need housing support.
This act also specifies the individuals who are eligible for the program, including:
· A parent with a child who is dependent pursuant to RCW chapter 13.34 and whose primary remaining barrier to reunification is the lack of appropriate housing. This group shall be given priority; and
· A parent with a child who is not dependent under RCW chapter 13.34, but the child is at risk of removal by DCYF due to lack of appropriate housing.
DCYF shall contract with an outside entity or entities to operate the program, however, if no entity/ies are available, DCYF may operate the program. The Child Welfare Housing Assistance Program is subject to the availability of funds appropriated for this purpose.
Additionally, families may be referred to the program by:
· A caseworker;
· An attorney;
· A guardian ad litem;
· A child welfare parent mentor;
· An Office of Public Defense social work; or
· The court.
This act also establishes the requirement to convene a stakeholder group to assist DCYF in the design of the Child Welfare Housing Assistance Program, which must include several members, all detailed under subsection (5), which includes:
· Parent allies;
· Parent attorneys & social workers managed by OPD;
· Housing experts; and
· Community-based organizations, among others.
RCW 13.34.065 is amended to include for the court to inquire as to whether housing assistance, including referral to the Child Welfare Housing Assistance Program was provided to a family alleging homelessness or lack of suitable housing.
RCW 43.126.015 is also amended and reenacted to include requirements for DCYF to annually report outcomes for the Child Welfare Housing Assistance Program to the oversight board for Children, Youth, and Families.
*Companion to SB 5718*