Legislative Achievements

2019 Policy Wins

*End Youth Detention for Status Offenses (SB 5290) – Perhaps the biggest win of the session, the practice of jailing youth for skipping school, running away and other noncriminal offenses will be phased out over the next few years. This timeline will allow state and local communities to strengthen and expand community-based services and alternatives to detention to ensure that young people and families are quickly connected to needed supports. Led by the Mockingbird Society, we were proud to partner with a large coalition of legislators and advocates to pass this bill after three years of trying.

Support Caseworkers and Reduce Caseload Size (SB 5955)– Washington is the fourth worst state in the nation when it comes to achieving timely permanency for children and youth in foster care, meaning that youth either return to their family or are placed in another forever family. The most significant driver of children lingering in foster care is caseworker turnover. SB 5955 improves caseworker support and training, and implements trauma-informed, reflective supervision for caseworkers. On the downside, the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) requested funding for an additional 154 caseworkers to reduce caseload size to national best practice standards but only received funding for 10 additional caseworkers.

*Expand Youth Voice on State Boards and Committees (HB 1561 and HB 1657)  Youth will have increased representation at state agency decision-making tables. The DCYF Oversight Board will add one young person who has experienced foster care and one young person who has experienced the juvenile justice system. An additional young person who has experienced homelessness will serve on the Office of Homeless Youth Advisory Committee.

More Education Wins Special education funding to school districts is expanded significantly. As 40% of the youth we serve require special education services, this is a huge win. The Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP), a pre-kindergarten program serving at-risk three and four year olds and their families with preschool, parent involvement and training, health services and intensive family support will be expanded to serve hundreds more children.

 

*Issue identified by youth who have experienced foster care

2018 Policy Wins

Education Equity (included in the final budget bill, and originally SB 6223 and HB 2877): A group of six five state agencies and several nonprofit organizations will work to align programs, accountability, policy and resources culminating in a report due to the Washington State Legislatures in December 2018. The report will include a plan for children and youth experiencing foster care and/or homelessness to achieve educational equity with their peers while closing the gap between racial and ethnic groups.

*Extended Foster Care (SB 6222): Extended Foster Care provides critical stability to youth transitioning from foster care into adulthood. The age eligibility to enroll in the program will change from 19 to 21, and young adults will be able to enroll and exit out of the program as many times as they need.

*Passport to Careers (SB 6274): The Passport to College Promise program, provided by College Success Foundation, was originally created to help students from foster care attend and succeed in college. The program will now include financial assistance for apprenticeships and per-apprenticeships prompting a name change to “Passport to Careers.” Under this new legislation, eligibility will incorporate youth placed in Washington from another state, youth in federal and tribal foster care systems and unaccompanied homeless youth.

 

*Issue identified by youth who have experienced foster care

Past Achievements

Since 2001, Treehouse has led or collaborated on landmark legislation to support the educational attainment and well-being of youth in foster care. With the support of our legislative champions, we’ve worked to:

  • Minimalize enrollment times when students transfer schools
  • Improve communication and data-sharing between school systems and the Department of Children, Youth and Families.
  • Encourage foster home recruitment
  • Simplify credit transfer for students entering new high schools
  • Make all youth in foster care eligible for College Bound
  • Improve school discipline policies for youth in foster care
  • Improve education planning requirements for students when discipline takes them out of school
  • Coordinate academic support services for youth in foster care

But with less than half of Washington State’s high school youth in foster care graduating on time, we still have work to do.

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