Legislative Agenda

2024 Legislative Agenda

During the summer of 2023, the Treehouse Policy Team facilitated a Systems Change Community of Practice (SCCoP) series for the first time. This was an opportunity for all Treehouse staff to participate in and inform the organization’s legislative priority development process.

The SCCoP series produced an extensive list of issues for the Policy Team to work on in the short and long term. The following issues represent our biggest priorities during the 2024 legislative session. This page will be updated with more information before, during and after the session.

2024 Advocacy Priorities

School Isolation & Restraint Practices

Lead Organization: Disability Rights WA & ACLU

During the 2023 legislative session, HB 1479 was introduced to eliminate student isolation practices in schools by 2026 and substantially limit when physical restraint practices could be used to protect students and staff.

As noted by the League of Education Voters, “We all benefit when educators have effective strategies to address challenging behaviors in the classroom. There are many effective evidence-based strategies and systems available, backed by neuroscience and educational experts. Restraint and isolation, however, are ineffective practices to manage student behavior.”

Treehouse fully supports the League of Education Voters’ assessment that isolation and restraint “causes extensive harm to staff and students, generates trauma, dysregulation, and disability, and destroys school climate.” Treehouse also believes students experiencing foster care are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of these practices, and that isolation and restraint contribute to high levels of school disconnection, learning loss and juvenile legal system involvement.

HB 1479 passed the House of Representatives during the 2023 legislative session but died in the Senate due to particular concerns about schools being in a position to adopt and benefit from these restrictions. However, not only is HB 1479 request legislation from OSPI, students are having their rights violated by the misuse of isolation & restraint.

Treehouse stands with our advocacy partners in calling for an end to these harmful practices and understand that while school personnel face challenges and constraints, we should no longer allow for the educational rights of students to be violated. We hope to partner with the above lead organizations to facilitate an inclusive and collaborative process to address these valid concerns held by advocates and school personnel alike.

Lowering Barriers to Enrollment in Extended Foster Care

Lead Organization: The Mockingbird Society

For a young person who turns 18 in foster care, successfully transitioning into adulthood and healthy independence requires holistic support. Extended Foster Care (EFC) is a program that has been shown to be effective in improving a broad range of outcomes for youth who participate.

In 2024, Treehouse will support The Mockingbird Society as they continue to advocate to remove harmful barriers to enrollment in EFC. Additionally, this effort will support increased funding for EFC maintenance payments and housing supplements – money that goes to youth enrolled in EFC so they can meet their basic needs.

Independent Living (IL) Investments

Lead Organizations: WA Association for Children & Families (WACF), DCYF

For youth experiencing foster care, there is no guarantee that there will be supportive adults in their lives who will teach them the independent living skills they need to thrive. Fortunately, the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) funds the Independent Living program.

Young people aged 15 through 22 can be referred to providers in their area who provide an array of supports and services designed to support skill development and healthy transitions. However, the program needs to be more adequately funded. Over the last 10 years, costs related to delivering services have increased significantly, but funding growth has not kept pace. Treehouse supports IL providers and WACF in advocating for sufficient funding to cover the full costs of delivering high-quality IL services. To learn more about this legislative priority from WACF, click here.

Passports to Careers - Expanded Eligibility

Lead Organization: Washington Student Achievement Council

When Treehouse began Graduation Success services in 2012, roughly 35% of youth experiencing foster care in Washington state graduated high school within 5 years. Because of educational programs supporting foster youth, such as Graduation Success, that percentage climbed to 53.4% in 2022. While high school completion rates for students in foster care have improved over this timeframe, college access and success rates have been stagnant or have declined.

According to the Education Research Data Center (ERDC), 4% of students from foster care who completed high school in 2012 had successfully completed a degree or training program within 10 years, compared to 25% of their non-foster care peers. Passport to Careers is a financial aid and student support program for youth who have experienced foster care or unaccompanied homelessness shown to improve access and success rates. Treehouse is excited to support the Washington Student Achievement Council’s request to the legislature to provide additional funding and lower barriers to enrollment in the Passport to Careers program.

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