Foster Care Justice Alliance

Defending the Rights of the Child

http://www.FosterJustice.com

 

Legislative Update

February 8, 2009

 

“If only they’d obey the laws we’ve already passed.”

Sen. James Hargrove, Chair, Human Services & Corrections

numerous occasions

 

ACTION ITEMS:

 

·       Contact Human Services & Corrections Committee: PLEASE PASS 5510

·       Contact Early Learning & Children’s Services Committee: PLEASE PASS 1782

·       Contact Human Services & Corrections Committee: PLEASE HEAR 5803

 

 

CALENDAR:

 

We would love to send someone to speak at your event, too.  Contact us at fosterjustice@live.com.

 

 

UPDATE

 

We had a good showing of foster parents and relative caregivers at the rally last Thursday, Feb. 5.  It was covered by KING 5 News: http://www.king5.com/localnews/stories/NW_020509INV-dshs-demonstration-KS.21eb19b1.html.  I think the most important thing that happened that day was not the speeches or the sign waving.  It was the person-to-person contacts between foster parents and birth parents.  We might not agree with every proposal put forward, but we do agree that the department wields too much power with too little accountability for decisions made.

 

I testified on Friday, Feb. 6, in the Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee on foster care legislation.  You can watch the hearing at:  http://www.tvw.org/media/MediaPlayer.cfm?evid=2009021077&TYPE=V&bhcp=1.

 

I very much appreciate the support of everyone that has written or called, and those that have been able to support us financially.  Without you, none of this happens.  Please keep calling your lawmakers, and if you can make a contribution it would really help.  Donations can be made online, by mail, or in person at any Bank of America branch.  Donations are tax deductable.  See details at: http://www.fosterjustice.com/donate.

 

 

 

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

 

http://www.FosterJustice.com

http://www.SiritaLaw.com

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

Status: Needs Executive Action in Human Services & Corrections

 

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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

SB 5510/ HB 1782 Encouraging Early Engagement: Regarding notification in dependency matters

Senate Status: Hearing in Human Services & Corrections: Feb.10, 1:30 pm, Cherberg Room 1

House Status: Hearing in Early Learning & Children's Services: Feb. 10, 1:30 pm, O’Brien Room E

 

Both bills are being heard at the same time on the same day!  Hopefully I can run back and forth to testify for both.

 

Supported by the Child Welfare Advocacy Coalition

 

 

Download our position paper here: http://www.fosterjustice.com/leg/Encouraging%20Early%20Engagement%20of%20All%20Parenting%20Resources.doc

 

 

ACTION ITEMS: 

 

 

Human Services and Corrections Committee Members:

Senator

Room

Phone

E-Mail

Hargrove, James (D) Chair

LEG 411

(360) 786-7646

hargrove.jim@leg.wa.gov

Regala, Debbie (D) Vice Chair

JAC 233

(360) 786-7652

regala.debbie@leg.wa.gov

Stevens, Val (R) *

INB 105

(360) 786-7676

stevens.val@leg.wa.gov

Brandland, Dale (R)

INB 203

(360) 786-7682

brandland.dale@leg.wa.gov

Carrell, Mike (R)

INB 102

(360) 786-7654

carrell.michael@leg.wa.gov

Kauffman, Claudia (D)

LEG 414

(360) 786-7692

kauffman.claudia@leg.wa.gov

McAuliffe, Rosemary (D)

LEG 403

(360) 786-7600

mcauliffe.rosemary@leg.wa.gov

 

 

Early Learning and Children’s Services Committee Members:

Representative

Room

Phone

E-Mail

Kagi, Ruth (D) Chair

JLOB 328

(360) 786-7910

kagi.ruth@leg.wa.gov

Roberts, Mary Helen (D) Vice Chair

JLOB 315

(360) 786-7950

roberts.maryhelen@leg.wa.gov

Haler, Larry (R) *

LEG 122D

(360) 786-7986

haler.larry@leg.wa.gov

Walsh, Maureen (R) **

JLOB 423

(360) 786-7836

walsh.maureen@leg.wa.gov

Angel, Jan (R)

JLOB 420

(360) 786-7964

angel.jan@leg.wa.gov

Goodman, Roger (D)

JLOB 320

(360) 786-7878

goodman.roger@leg.wa.gov

Seaquist, Larry (D)

JLOB 317

(360) 786-7802

seaquist.larry@leg.wa.gov

 

 

 

 

SB 5803 Making Changes to the Adoption Support Program

Senate Status: Referred to Human Services & Corrections


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: Ask Sen. Hargrove to please schedule SB 5803 for a hearing.

 

 

 

Continuity of Care and the Importance of Psychological Relationships

Status: Not yet 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: http://www.FosterJustice.com/leg/FCJA Think Tank Report.doc

 

Download our position paper here: http://www.fosterjustice.com/leg/Continuity%20of%20Care%20and%20Psychological%20Relationships.doc

 

 

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.

 

ACTION ITEMS:

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           hargrove.jim@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Jamie Pedersen               (360) 786-7826           pedersen.jamie@leg.wa.gov

 

 

 

 

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.

 

ACTION ITEMS:

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           hargrove.jim@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Jamie Pedersen               (360) 786-7826           pedersen.jamie@leg.wa.gov

 

 

 

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