08.28.2019

Mockingbird Society and Treehouse Highlight 4 Major Policy Wins for Youth in Foster Care

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SB 5290 Passes after Years of Trying as Important Step in Ending Youth Homelessness


SEATTLE, August 28th, 2019 – With the passage of SB 5290, the practice of jailing minors for non-criminal actions—such as skipping school and running away—will be phased out. The legislation passed after a three-year effort led by The Mockingbird Society and a large coalition of legislators and advocates, including Treehouse.

“SB 5290 is a significant first step toward ensuring our young people and their families get the support they need,” said Annie Blackledge, Executive Director of The Mockingbird Society. “We’re grateful to our community partners, key legislators and our youth advocates for their tireless leadership on this issue.”

Studies show that jailing youth for nonviolent offenses causes trauma and worsens their behavior.

“Youth who run away need support, not incarceration,” said Dawn Rains, Treehouse’s Chief Policy and Strategy Officer. “Mockingbird Society is to be commended for making this issue a top priority.”

Other important policy wins include:

Caseworker Retention (SB 5955) Washington is one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to children lingering in foster care and not achieving a permanent home within federally mandated timelines. The most significant driver is caseworker turnover. SB 5955 improves caseworker support and training, and implements trauma-informed, reflective supervision for caseworkers. The Department of Children, Youth and Families received funding for 10 additional caseworkers. Highlighting the need, the department had requested funding for an additional 154 caseworkers to reduce caseload size to national best practice standards.

Expand Youth Voice (HB 1561 and HB 1657) Youth who have experienced foster care, juvenile justice and/or homelessness will have increased representation at state agency decision-making tables. They will serve on the DCYF Oversight Board and the Office of Homeless Youth Advisory Committee.

Special Education Funding –
Special education funding to school districts was expanded significantly. About 40% of youth in foster care require special education services.

About The Mockingbird Society:
The Mockingbird Society’s mission is to transform foster care and end youth homelessness. We create, support, and advocate for racially equitable, healthy environments that develop and empower young people at risk of—or who are experiencing—foster care or homelessness. Working in partnership with young people with lived experience, we change policies and perceptions standing between any child and a safe, supportive and stable home. We envision each young person, regardless of race or individual experience, reaching adulthood with an equitable opportunity to thrive.

Learn more at www.mockingbirdsociety.org.

About Treehouse
Founded in 1988 by social workers, Treehouse is Washington’s leading nonprofit organization addressing the academic and other essential support needs of more than 7,000 youth in foster care. We’re committed to youth in care statewide achieving a degree or other career credential, living wage job and stable housing at the same rate as their peers. With fierce optimism, we fight the structural inequities that impact all of us. Learn more at www.treehouseforkids.org.

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