What a memorable session!!!! Many significant policy bills passed and the operating and capital budgets included funding to address housing/homelessness, child welfare, early learning, behavioral health, TANF (a record 15% grant increase!), broadband/digital access, childhood hunger, and more.
April 25th, Sine Die, has come and gone, and the legislature completed their work with hours to spare! The budget conferees released their budget on April 24th and the House and Senate then passed it on Sunday, the 25th.
The Capital Gains Tax bill (SB5096)also passed prior to adjourning. SB5096 directs revenues that are collected to be deposited into the state Education Legacy Trust Account (the first $500m) and the remainder into the Common School Construction Account. The Education Legacy Trust Account was amended to allow permanently funds to be used for early learning and child care programs. This is especially significant given the passage of the Fair Start for Kids Act (SB5237).
We want to provide you with a handful of highlights related to Partners for Our Children’s legislative priorities, noting that the majority of the bills that passed this session have not yet been signed by the Governor.
[Note: Funding was included in the budget to implement the bills that passed.]
Deep thanks to legislators, legislative staff, many others involved in the legislative process, and YOU!! We relied heavily on the bill summaries prepared by staff and appreciate your ongoing interest in issues related to children, youth, and families.
We will provide a final update once the Governor takes action on the remaining bills. Otherwise, until next year we send most deeply felt gratitude!
Parent-Child Visitation -- E2SHB1194
1) Requires that the first visit after a child is placed outside the home of a parent, guardian, or legal custodian must take place within 72 hours of the child being delivered to the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, unless the court finds that extraordinary circumstances exist
2) Establishes a presumption that if the court previously ordered that visitation between a parent and a child be supervised or monitored, such supervision will no longer be necessary at certain stages of child welfare proceedings
3) Requires that visitation occur in the least restrictive setting and be unsupervised unless the presence of threats or danger to the child requires the constant presence of an adult to ensure the safety of the child
Keeping Families Together -- E2SHB1227
Among other provisions, the bill does the following:
1) Requires hospitals, law enforcement, and courts to find that the removal or detention of a child is necessary to prevent imminent physical harm due to child abuse or neglect before authorizing removal or detention of the child
2) Requires the Department of Children, Youth, and Families to make continuing efforts to place children with relatives and requires such placement unless there is no relative capable of ensuring the basic of the child
3) Requires the court to release a child to a parent unless the court finds reasonable cause to believe that removal of the child is necessary to prevent imminent physical harm and that the evidence shows a causal relationship between the conditions in the home and imminent physical harm to the child
4) Requires that the court consider the circumstances of the situation and that the risk of imminent physical harm outweighs the harm the child would experience as a result of removal 5) The bill goes into effect in July, 2023.
Appointment of Counsel for Children/Youth in Dependency Court Proceedings –2SHB1219
1) Phased implementation of mandatory appointment of counsel in dependency proceedings for children age 8 and over, beginning July, 2022.
2) Mandates that counsel is appointed for children 0-7 upon the filing of a termination petition
3) Directs the Washington State Center for Court Research (Center) to convene stakeholders to identify relevant outcome measures and data collection methods to effectively assess the number of youth subject to the phase-in, and the short- and long-term impact of standards-based legal representation on case outcomes… Their report is due Nov. 30, 2022.
4) The Supreme Court's Commission on Children in Foster Care is requested to convene a Children's Representation Workgroup to review and update the standards of practice, caseload limits, and training guidelines developed and adopted by the Statewide Children's Representation Work Group from 2010. The updated standards must be developed by March 31, 2022.
Foster Care and Child Care Licensing - SSB5151
1) The bill makes the outdoor nature-based childcare program permanent.
2) Regarding foster care licensing, DCYF is granted the authority to issue a child-specific license to a relative or a suitable person who opts to become licensed for placement of a specific child and that child's siblings or relatives in DCYF's care, custody, and control. The individuals seeking licensure must meet all minimum requirements and other criteria DCYF establishes by rule.
3) DCYF is required to seek input from stakeholders, including kinship caregivers, during the development and adoption of the rules.
Early Childhood Court –2SSB5331
1) Requires that if a Superior Court establishes an Early Childhood Court it must incorporate a set of core components based on the national standards
2) Identifies training requirements, the requirement to have family team meetings neutrally facilitated, the requirement to ensure that parents are critical participants in the process, and more
3) Requires that a community team (members of which are delineated) is established by the court that consists of stakeholders and serves as an advisory body.
Fair Start for Kids Act – E2SSB5237
Comprehensive early learning bill, with its components addressing:
· Working Connections Child Care eligibility and co-pays (the state’s subsidized child care program),
· the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (state’s pre-school program),
· supports for providers (including trauma-informed care supports, infant and early childhood mental health consultation, play and learn groups, dual language rate enhancement, professional development, and more),
· pre-natal to three supports (including infant care rate enhancement, 0-3 ECEAP, home visiting, and more),
· employer-supported child care,
· and the creation of the Fair Start for Kids Account.
Family Resource Centers – HB1237
1) The bill defines a "family resource center" ("FRC") as a unified single point of entry where families, individuals, children, and youth in communities can obtain information, an assessment of needs, referral to, or direct delivery of family services in a manner that is welcoming and strength-based. An FRC is designed to meet the needs, cultures, and interests of the communities the FRC serves.
2) Identifies that services may be delivered to a family at the FRC by providers who contract with or have provider agreements with the FRC
3) Requires that a FRC have one or more family advocates who screen and assess a family’s needs and strengths
Economic Inclusion – 2SSB5214
Allows individuals who receive or did receive TANF benefits during a month on or after March 1, 2020 to qualify for an extension to the 60-month lifetime limit when WA’s unemployment rate is at or above 7 percent. The extension would be equal to the number of months that the person received a TANF grant during a month of high unemployment, and the extension must be applied sequentially to any other extensions that may apply.
Children/Youth Behavioral Health – 2SHB1325
1) Converts the pilot programs for the Partnership Access Line for Moms and Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens into permanent programs
2) Expands Medicaid benefits to enhance the number of mental health assessment visits for infants from birth to six months and modifies criteria for mental health assessment and diagnosis for children aged birth through five