Foster Care Justice Alliance

Defending the Rights of the Child

http://www.FosterJustice.com

 

Legislative Update: FINAL PASSAGE

April 26, 2009

 

 

"We need to pay attention to the relationships that children have when they can no longer remain home. The first preference is always to find a relative who has a relationship with the child. But the second is another suitable person that has a relationship with the child, like the mother of the child's best friend, where the child spends a lot of time after school, or [someone] - we call them "fictive kin"... an adult that has a relationship with the child and can provide a stable placement for the child. This makes it very explicit in our statutes that the court must attend to those relations and assure that if there is a suitable person the child has a relationship with, that the child is placed with that person."

 

"Throughout the amendments we are making to our laws in this session, we're really trying to pay attention to the relationships that children have, and making sure that there some continuity in those, whenever we can maintain that."

Rep. Ruth Kagi, District 32, ELCS Chair, House Floor debate on 5811 and 5431, April 23, 2009

 

 

ON TO THE GOVERNOR!

 

1782/5510: Encouraging Early Engagement of All Parenting Resources

5431: Continuity of Care for Children Returning to Foster Care

5811: Omnibus bill (see below, including OFCO and adoption support provisions)

 

 

ACTION ITEMS:

 

To contact the governor:

Phone: 360-902-4111

Fax: 360-753-4110

E-mail: http://www.governor.wa.gov/contact/default.asp

 

 

THE 'WIN' COLUMN:

 

 

BIG IDEAS THAT NEED MORE TIME:

 

 

UPDATE

 

Today is the final day of the 2009 legislative session, and all our bills have passed by wide majorities. Thank you to everyone that wrote or called in!

 

This has been a very tough session with the $9 billion in cuts needed to balance the budget. Legislators kept at it until the wee hours of the morning yesterday, and are back at it again today. If you are watching on TVW, you must notice how exhausted they all look. No matter which side of the aisle you prefer, you have to respect all of them for what they do and the passion they bring to it. They stayed focused throughout and managed to deal with a lot of issues.

 

This was the first session for the Foster Care Justice Alliance as an organization, although most of you have been with me as grass roots citizen activists for four years now. This was a big year. We successfully moved the debate forward on issues of early permanency and continuity of care.

 

On a personal note, let me state how important HB1782/SB5510 is to me. When I first approached the legislature in 2005, I proposed three ideas for the original Sirita's Law: 1) a limitation on how many times a child can suffer abuse, 2) a limitation on how long a parent can be absent during dependency, and 3) transitional, post-placement visitation for the caregivers of foster children.

 

Sirita's Law didn't pass that first year. It was turned into a two year task force in which I was a member. We studied the child welfare system and made recommendations on all three of those issues and about 40 more. In 2007, the legislature took our report and enacted most of those recommendations in some form.

 

The one exception was parents who are absent for years at a time, and then come in at the end of the dependency to make an 11th hour attempt at custody, after the child has established a deep bond with her long term caregivers.

 

This year we approached it from a different angle: make sure the birth parent understands the gravity of the situation. Make sure they have documented notification. Explain that even if they want the other parent to be the first choice, they need to be in contact with the child. Modify the notification of dependency to say the child needs you. If they still don't engage in visitation, make that just one factor out of many the court can consider in the best interest of the child. This is the essence of HB 1782 and the companion bill SB 5510.

 

It's very fitting that the last plank of what was intended to be in Sirita's Law becomes one of the first successful proposals from Foster Justice. I have you all to thank for it. Thanks also due to our prime sponsors Sen. Val Stevens and Rep. Roger Goodman who stuck with me throughout this process, to all the co-sponsors and committee chairs, and to Rep. Bill Hinkle who first drafted this idea in 2005. It's been a long four years.

 

Let me say in closing that I do believe the governor will sign all these bills, but it's never a bad idea to be sure. Please call or e-mail Governor Gregoire in support of foster kids.

 

Thanks for a great session.

 

Gary

 

 

Watch the final passage of HB 1782 in the Senate at 01:02:30:

http://www.tvw.org/media/mediaplayer.cfm?evid=2009040136A&TYPE=V&CFID=3147765&CFTOKEN=34023478&bhcp=1

 

 

GOLF TOURNAMENT AND SILENT AUCTION: We will be participating in the Exchange Club Charity Golf Tournament June 27, at Walter Hall Golf Course in Everett. Have fun playing golf and help us raise funds to support foster kids. Golfers and Sponsors needed!

 

Tournament Sponsorship is $250

Tee Box Sponsorship is $100

Golfers: $100

 

We also need volunteers and donated items for the silent auction. Please contact us for details.

 

 

 

Donít 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

FCJA 24-hour Message Line: 1-484-288-4364

Foster Care Justice Alliance, P.O. Box 233, Woodinville, WA 98072-0233

 

http://www.FosterJustice.com

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Foster Care Justice Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Tax deductable donations can be made online, by mail, or in person at any Bank of America branch (WA State): http://www.fosterjustice.com/donate/donate.htm. Ask your employer about matching gifts.

 

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SB 1782: Parent Participation in dependency

Proposed by FCJA: "Encouraging Early Engagement of All Parenting Resources"

Supported by the Child Welfare Advocacy Coalition

 

Status: Passed unanimous. Headed for the Governor.

 

Sections of the original 1782/5510 bills were divided up between them for final passage.

 

 

 

 

 

SB 5510 Regarding notification in dependency

Proposed by FCJA: "Encouraging Early Engagement of All Parenting Resources"

Supported by the Child Welfare Advocacy Coalition

 

Status: Passed unanimous in the Senate, near unanimous in the House. Headed for the Governor.

 

 

 

 

 

SB 5811 Concerning foster care placements

Status: Passed unanimous. Headed for the Governor.

 

 

 

 

 

SB 5431 Regarding placement of a child returning to out-of-home care

Proposed by FCJA, "Continuity of Care and the Importance of Psychological Relationships"

 

Status: Passed unanimous. Headed for the Governor.

 

If a child returns home, and then returns to foster care, this bill requires the department to place the child when possible with a foster family where the child has been before, if the family is willing and available, able to meet the child's needs, and in the best interest of the child. The department is to consider the length of time and the child's attachment and affection for the caregivers in determining which previous placement is best.

 

 

 

 

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

 

FCJA Facebook Page: http://apps.facebook.com/causes/202325

http://www.FosterJustice.com

http://www.SiritaLaw.com