Working to transform the child welfare system.

Legislative

Legislative Update – Week 5

Welcome to Week 5 of the 2014 Legislative Session!

It was certainly an interesting week in Olympia! Since there were a few cut-offs this week, there were late nights, frantic efforts to try to keep bills from dying, and creative thinking about how to revive bills that did not make it past a cut-off.  As the saying goes, it’s not over ‘til it’s over, especially in the legislative session.  All in all, there was some good news and some bad news – so let’s just get right to it and share a few highlights:
 
Extended Foster Care: HB 2335, sponsored by Representative Roberts, and SB 6101, sponsored by Senator Fain, would have extended foster care for youth from the age of 18 to 21 if they were employed at least 80 hours per month or had a documented medical condition.  Although they were heard, the extended foster care bills did not make it out of either fiscal committee.  According to a recent report put out by the Department of Social and Health Services Research and Data Analysis, 35 percent of youth in Washington State who age out of care at age 18 experience homelessness within one year.  These bills would have ensured that more youth aging out of care have the opportunity to maintain safe housing until age 21.  There’s no giving up, however, and if there truly is no way to move forward with Extended Foster Care in 2014, 2015 isn’t far away!
 
Prudent Parent Standard: HB 2699, sponsored by Representative Kagi, and SB 6479, sponsored by Senator Frockt, give caregivers (e.g., foster parents) authority to allow children placed in their care to participate in normal childhood activities based on a reasonable and prudent parent standard.  Currently, caregivers and foster children require caseworker or additional departmental permission regarding certain normal childhood activities.  This bill is designed specifically to address these barriers that often cause frustration and disappointment for foster children.  Changes would allow foster parents increased flexibility and discretion in making decisions around extracurricular, enrichment, and social activities.  For example, many children in care cannot spend time away for a weekend camping trip or field trip without the possibility of a lengthy approval process from their caseworker.  The substitute bill also adds that caseworkers should discuss a child’s interest in and pursuit of normal childhood activities during monthly meetings with parents, which is an effective way of keeping communication clear between parties.  We’re excited that these bills are still moving!
 
Neither the House nor the Senate is expected to work this weekend, which means Monday and Tuesday will be jam-packed with floor action.  Following the February 18th cut-off (last day to consider bills in house of origin), there is very little time for bills to be heard and passed in the opposite house policy committees, again creating a nail-biting situation for many!
 
Once again, check out our Bill Tracker for status updates on all of the bills.  Also, be sure to follow Partners for Our Children on Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout the week.
 
Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Laurie Lippold

Public Policy Director