Legislative Update – Supporting Foster Kids and Children’s Rights

http://www.SiritaLaw.com

March 7, 2008

UPDATE:

 

This was the last day for the House and Senate to hear each other’s bills – and all the bills we’ve been tracking passed unanimous in both houses!  3205 and 5010 passed last night, and 2822 and 2679 passed this morning.  A big thank you to everyone manning their phones and sending mail.  There is no doubt in my mind that you put these bills on the fast track.

 

 

 

But before we hang it up for another year, there are still some gotchas:

 

One of the women who testified on behalf of the VPA provisions in 3205 asked me what we do now that it has been removed.  I replied I was committed to work on this next year.  This is what she wrote back:

 

“My frustration comes from that fact that my daughter will be discharged from CSTC in September or October of this year.  She can not come home because she has threatened to kill us.  The Department will not provide a VPA, so they will try to remove my daughter from my custody.  I don't have until next year.”

 

For the sake of these children and their families, we need one more push.

 

ACTION ITEMS:

 

Please contact your senators and representatives now and ask that they:

·       fund these laws that they passed

·       support foster children at the House budget levels

·       restore Voluntary Placement Agreements to HB 3205 in conference

 

Contact the fiscal committee chairs, thank them for supporting foster children, and ask them to finance these bills:

·       Senate Ways & Means Chair Senator Prentice (360) 786-7616 prentice.margarita@leg.wa.gov

·       House Appropriations Chair Rep. Helen Sommers (360) 786-7814 sommers.Helen@leg.wa.gov

 

 

 

There is no time to waste.  Call or e-mail your representatives now to support foster kids.

 

Don’t know who your representatives are? Click here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder

All e-mail addresses: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/memberemail

 

Toll Free Legislative Hotline: 1.800.562.6000

Even if you don’t know your district, the operators will find it for you.

When they ask to which representative, say “All of them!”

 

 

 

 

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

Status: Passed unanimous in the House and Senate, but amended to remove VPAs.

 

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 was necessary to come into compliance with the Federal Adoption Safe Families Act (ASFA) ’97.

 

Senate Ways & Means amended 3205 to remove the provision that allows voluntary out-of-home placement agreements for adopted foster children in crisis.

 

The House and Senate have the ability restore VPAs in conference if they have the will to do it.  You and your telephone play a vital role in that.  1-800-562-6000.

 

 

 

 

HB 2822 – Concerning the family and juvenile court improvement program.

Status: Passed unanimous in both chambers, but goes back to the House to approve Senate amendments

 

HB 2822 encourages reform of the family courts by creating a fund that is available to courts that:

 

 

 

 

HB 2679 – Improve educational outcomes for students in foster care

Status: Passed unanimous in both chambers, but goes back to the House to approve Senate amendments

 

Directs the school districts to report to the legislature on the educational progress of foster children, and gives schools grant money to create programs to improve their educational outcomes. Grant money may be used for tutoring, counseling, extracurricular activities, school pictures, and yearbooks.  Moms and Dads usually pay for this stuff – but if you don’t have a mom or a dad, you just have to watch other kids get cool things.  This bill helps kids in foster care have a normal childhood.

 

 

 

 

SB 5010 – Creating a State Park Foster Home Pass

Status: Passed near unanimous, but goes back to the House to approve Senate amendments

 

This bill allows foster families and relative caregivers to camp for free in state parks.

 

As a child some of the great experiences of my life were spent camping.  As a foster father, I believe that it can be therapeutic for children that have been abused or neglected.  And it is one of the few bills where you can say the cost is equal to the benefit received by the child.

 

We spend millions of dollars on therapy every year.  While I’m not suggesting camping can replace that, still, it’s something that is both fun and relatively cheap therapy.

 

I believe this bill can have a ripple effect in the private sector, by setting a good example.  After final passage we can take this message to private vendors – the Seahawks, the Mariners, the City of Seattle's Seattle Center, the Woodland Park Zoo, etc., and ask them to honor the state park pass card to give a discount to foster families in the same way they do to military ID holders.

 

This is not an earthshaking bill.  It won't get much press.  But I do believe it is important in its own quiet way.

 

 

 

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