Foster Care Justice Alliance

Defending the Rights of the Child


Legislative Update

February 15, 2009


“If you don't play by their rules, or if you have any complaints or question any action, human nature tends to breed retaliation by some caseworkers.  Something is not right here.”

Rep. Maureen Walsh, 16th District

State foster parents complain of 'baby sitter' status that puts children at risk

Seattle Times, Nov. 3, 2003





·       Contact Human Services & Corrections Committee: PLEASE PASS 5803

·       Contact Human Services & Corrections Committee: PLEASE HEAR 5988





It’s been six years since Rep. Walsh – then a legislative aide – gave the above quote to a reporter on the Rafael Gomez case, yet it still rings true today.  If you oppose the department’s case plan, you are labeled “uncooperative”, and therefore not acting in the best interest of the child.  I remember watching it on the news.  That was the same month we handed Sirita over.  I felt a cold chill, and I thought, please God, not Sirita.  You know the rest of that story.


We are still fighting the same issues today – social worker bias, department retaliation, and filtering of information.  What’s interesting is how similar themes run through the stories we hear from both birth parents and foster parents.


The session is moving fast.  The deadline to get out of policy committees is fast approaching.  Bills that do not make the cut will be dead.  The projected budget deficit has been revised up to $8.5 billion.  There will be deep cuts in social services to our most vulnerable.  Even bills with very modest fiscal impact are at risk.  We all need to contact our lawmakers to protect kids at risk.





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SB 5811 Regarding placement of a child returning to out-of-home care

Status: Hearing in Senate Human Services, Feb. 19, 3:30 PM, Cherberg Hearing Room 1


This bill has three parts:


This bill has some relation to the FCJA proposals for permissive intervention by caregivers, however I have some reservations about the language.


My first thought was of all the grandparents that have talked to me about their cases.  Almost all of them involve a clash with their son or daughter, stemming from a drug problem.  Often it is the grandparent that made the original CPS complaint.  The parent is usually not too happy about that.  If we give the parent a veto over placement with the grandparent, I think we are doing a disservice to lots of good grandparents.


Likewise, simply assuming a placement is a good one without any investigation does not seem like a good idea.


This bill would have helped a few cases I know where the parent did support a caregiver that was in an altercation with the department.  It does expand a caregiver’s role in very limited circumstances.  But we support allowing limited intervention by all caregivers when the child has lived with the caregiver long enough to have formed a deep bond, if the child has languished in foster care beyond statutory limits or when the child is already legally free.


The intent of this bill, I think, is to provide some protection against department retaliation.  We are on board supporting that intention, but doing so by short-circuiting all the other good social work (and there is some, despite the horror stories) does not seem like the best approach.  FCJA will make our own proposals for amending this bill.


ACTION ITEM: Foster parents, birth parents, grandparents, and other relative caregivers are needed to testify on this bill: Feb. 19, 3:30 PM, J.A. Cherberg Hearing Room 1




SB 5988 Visitation by caregivers in dependency matters

Status: Referred to Human Services & Corrections


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


This bill is an implementation of Recommendation #6 from our foster care policy think tank report.  It would allow a caregiver to petition the court for visitation of a child in dependency.  It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.


Senator Hargrove has agreed, at our request, to hear this bill related to intervention by caregivers after the policy cut in the Senate.  This means they would not be able to pass this session.  Let’s be clear about this: for controversial issues of this complexity, for the first year, just getting a hearing is a win.  A hearing allows us to bring forward all those that are hurt to tell their stories to a room full of senators.  It allows those in opposition to express their views, too, so we can improve our proposals.  This isn’t a sprint.  This is a marathon.  We’re going to win this by staying in it.  Continue to contact your legislators in support of this bill, and tell your stories.


ACTION ITEM: Ask Sen. Hargrove to schedule this bill for a hearing.




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

Status: Needs Executive Action in Human Services & Corrections


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


If a child returns home, and then returns to foster care, this bill requires the department to place the child with the same foster family, if the family is willing and available, and in the best interest of the child.


We are waiting to see the revised language.  We expect it will allow greater flexibility while requiring investigation of previous placements, because the most recent placement might not have been the longest or the most significant.  In my testimony, I also asked for language to be added that the child should have some say in the matter, too.


ACTION ITEM: Thank Sen. Hargrove for hearing this bill.  All committee members: Please Pass!





SB 5510/ HB 1782 Regarding notification in dependency matters

Senate Status: Needs Executive Action in Human Services & Corrections

House Status: Needs Executive Action in Early Learning & Children's Services


Proposed by FCJA, Encouraging Early Engagement of All Parenting Resources

Supported by the Child Welfare Advocacy Coalition



We are expecting revised language from friendly amendments in both the House and Senate, based on input from the DSHS and from the Office of Public Defense.


Download our position paper here:






Human Services and Corrections Committee Members:





Hargrove, James (D) Chair

LEG 411

(360) 786-7646

Regala, Debbie (D) Vice Chair

JAC 233

(360) 786-7652

Stevens, Val (R) *

INB 105

(360) 786-7676

Brandland, Dale (R)

INB 203

(360) 786-7682

Carrell, Mike (R)

INB 102

(360) 786-7654

Kauffman, Claudia (D)

LEG 414

(360) 786-7692

McAuliffe, Rosemary (D)

LEG 403

(360) 786-7600



Early Learning and Children’s Services Committee Members:





Kagi, Ruth (D) Chair

JLOB 328

(360) 786-7910

Roberts, Mary Helen (D) Vice Chair

JLOB 315

(360) 786-7950

Haler, Larry (R) *

LEG 122D

(360) 786-7986

Walsh, Maureen (R) **

JLOB 423

(360) 786-7836

Angel, Jan (R)

JLOB 420

(360) 786-7964

Goodman, Roger (D)

JLOB 320

(360) 786-7878

Seaquist, Larry (D)

JLOB 317

(360) 786-7802





SB 5803 Making Changes to the Adoption Support Program

Senate Status: Hearing in Senate Human Services Committee, Feb. 20 8:00 AM, J.A. Cherberg Hearing Room 1
Proposed by the Washington Adoptive Families Alliance


This bill requires full disclosure of the limits of the Adoption Support Program at least 6 full months before the adoption of a child.  Many adoptive families have been told that the Adoption Support Program would provide necessary services for their child prior to the adoption being finalized.  When their child needed services, they discovered that the Adoption Support Program did not provide the services they had been promised.


This bill allows exception-to-cost funding to purchase necessary services for a child adopted from foster care.  Foster children routinely are allowed exception-to-cost funding to purchase services they need. Once a child is adopted, those funds disappear.  Former foster children and the families who adopt them are penalized by proceeding with an adoption.  The adoption ends vital services for a child to succeed in the adopted family.


This bill also requires that adoptive parents of hard to place child be included as trainers and resources for pre-adopt families, to be certain that families get real-life information about the joys and challenges of adoption.  We have all heard how wonderful adoption can be.  We want to be certain that a balanced picture is presented to families who are considering adoption so that families make an informed decision.


ACTION ITEM: Thank Sen. Hargrove hearing SB 5803. All HS committee members: Please Pass!



Continuity of Care and the Importance of Psychological Relationships


Sen. Jacobsen introduced SB 5988 on the issue of visitation (see above).  We are expecting a bill dealing with the issue of placement also to be introduced.


We are seeking a statutory right to intervene for visitation, placement, and child safety for children that are languishing in foster care.  Children form very deep bonds, often in the only home they have ever known, and yet the child has no right to maintain that bond.  We have seen children removed from foster homes as retaliation because the foster parent complained about the case – and the foster parent has no recourse to protect the child.  We believe that intervention is a last resort, which may be appropriate in certain circumstances:



This is a very complex issue.  Read more about it in our think tank report: Think Tank Report.doc


Download our position paper here:



ACTION ITEM: Talk to your legislators about the bonds children form in long term foster care, and the importance of psychological parents.  Ask them to support the FCJA Think Tank Report.




SB 5653 Allows public access to foster parents’ private information

Status: Heard in Human Services & Corrections


This bill allows a foster parent’s private information to be available to the public: medical records, financial records, employment history, salary, marital status and history, past and present domestic partners, ethnicity, culture, and neighborhood.


This gross invasion of privacy threatens the safety of the children we protect.  Kids enter foster care because of abuse or neglect, usually caused by drug use (70%), alcohol abuse, or mental illness, and often involving violence or criminal activity.  Protecting the child’s whereabouts is vital for their safety.


This bill also allows those who wish to obfuscate dependency proceedings to dig up dirt on foster families.  Since the foster parent, not a party to the case, has no right to speak or rebut allegations, this is grossly unfair.  We are not the enemy.  We are not the ones that put the child in dependency.  If return home is the permanency plan, the proper focus of the dependency hearing is the parent’s ability to remove deficiencies and parent the child.


Foster parents tell me everyday that they are fed up with the system.  Recruitment and retention are in decline.  This bill will not help.  I believe Senator Roach is sincere in her desire to reform DSHS, but this bill is ill considered.



ACTION ITEM: Contact all committee members: DO NOT PASS 5653




HB 1183/SB 5609 Concerning legal representation of children in dependency proceedings

House Status: Heard by the Judiciary Committee

Senate Status: Referred to Human Services & Corrections


Supported by the Child Welfare Advocacy Coalition


Requires the court to determine if a foster child over the age of 12 needs an attorney.  Under current law, a child 12 or older can request an attorney.  Even if a child doesn’t request one, the court can still order one for the child now.  This bill would simply require the court to consider and make a determination.


An attorney can help a child stand up for their rights, when they are being moved unnecessarily, or when they haven’t had visitation with siblings.  Foster Justice supports this bill.  But attorneys cost money, and anything that will cost money is going to have a hard time this session.



Ask Sen. Hargrove to please schedule SB 5609 for a hearing.

Thank Rep. Pedersen for hearing HB 1183 – please PASS! 


Senator James Hargrove         (360) 786-7646 

Rep. Jamie Pedersen               (360) 786-7826 





HB 1607/SB 5477 Visitation rights for grandparents.

House Status: Referred to the Judiciary Committee

Senate Status: Referred to Human Services & Corrections


Proposed by GROWS (Grandparents Rights of Washington State)


Allows grandparents to petition the court for visitation with a grandchild, if:


This is a complex issue that does not relate directly to foster care, however, many of the kids affected by this are foster kids, and many of them would have become foster kids if the grandparents had not stepped in.  Although this bill speaks to any grandparent with a substantial relationship, my main concern is for the grandparents that have become the primary caregivers for years at a time through an informal arrangement, and then lose all contact with the child when the natural parent returns.  There’s no doubt in my mind the child is harmed by that, and it happens far too often.  This ties in to our own proposal for continuity of care, and in fact a representative from GROWS participated in our think tank.



Ask Sen. Hargrove to please schedule SB 5477 for a hearing.

Ask Rep. Pedersen to please schedule HB 1607 for a hearing. 


Senator James Hargrove         (360) 786-7646 

Rep. Jamie Pedersen               (360) 786-7826 




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