Legislative Update – Supporting Foster Kids and Children’s Rights

http://www.SiritaLaw.com

February 9, 2008

URGENT:

 

HB 3205 Promoting the long-term well-being of children

 

This bill requires the department to file a termination of parental rights petition if a child has been in out-of-home care for 15 of the last 22 months.  This is already Federal law under the Adoption Safe Families Act (ASFA) ’97, but as we all know, not followed very much.  The bill has been passed by the Early Learning Childen’s Services Committee and referred to Appropriations but not yet scheduled for a hearing.  The deadline to get out of Appropriations is this Tuesday, February 12.

 

The Attorney General’s office has filed a $1.5 million fiscal note to this bill, which is interesting – this means the AG is saying this bill will cost them more money to follow what has already been federal law for nine years.  In other words, they aren’t currently following the law.  Well, isn’t that just the problem?  There are 9000 kids in foster care on any given day – and half of them have been there for 3 or more years.

 

ACTION NEEDED: Call Appropriations Chair Helen Sommers and ask her to schedule 3205 for a hearing!

 

Chair Helen Sommers: (360) 786-7814 Sommers.Helen@leg.wa.gov.

 

You do not need to wax eloquent, just call and say, “Please support foster kids and schedule 3205 for a hearing.”

 

Also call your representatives and ask them to support 3205, especially if your representative is on Appropriations.

 

Don’t know your representatives? Click here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder.  Input your address and it gives links to your senator and representatives.  Their web pages have their phone numbers.  All e-mail addresses are here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/memberemail

 

Or call the toll free Legislative Hotline: 1.800.562.6000.  Even if you don’t know who your representative is, they will figure it out for you and send a message. When they ask to which representative you want to send your message, say “All of them!”

 

 

OTHER UPDATES:

 

SB 5909/HB 2088 - Supporting the needs of children who have been in foster care.

 

This is the bill that creates Individual Development Accounts for foster kids, and allows foster parents, community organizations, and other interested persons to contribute.  The House bill has been referred to Appropriations but not yet scheduled for a hearing.  The Senate version is on the Senate floor and placed on the calendar, but not yet brought up for a vote.  As long as one of these bills keeps moving, the issue stays alive.

 

ACTION NEEDED:

 

 

 

HB 2075 Concerning termination of parental rights petitions

 

Unfortunately, this bill did not make the cut off to get out of committee.  I am still working to see if the language can be amended onto another bill, but it looks like this is an issue that we’ll have to work on during the interim for next year (again).  I am committed to this issue.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that willfully ignoring your child in foster care is neglect of parental duties.  Willful non-contact is abandonment, not grounds for a mulligan.  Talk to your representatives about this issue, especially if you are a foster parent or foster care alumni that has been touched by it.

 

This cause is a marathon, not a sprint.  The even numbered years are short sessions.  We knew going into this session that:

 

Small victories, such as establishing IDAs, are still victories.  It’s still important this year to keep up the education of your representatives with your personal stories.  They need to know your pain.  It’s the only way change happens.  Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have told me they are committed to work with me over the interim on the issues that did not get drafted or passed.

 

But that shouldn’t stop us from pushing for the changes we can achieve this session – and Rep. Jarrett’s bill HB 3205, requiring DSHS and the AG to follow Federal law is top on my list.  If a child has been in care over 15 months, it is time to establish permanency.  This alone will save lives.  Please call your representatives now.

 

Toll Free Legislative Hotline: 1.800.562.6000

Find out who are your legislators: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder

E-mail addresses for all lawmakers: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/memberemail