Foster Care Justice Alliance

Defending the Rights of the Child


Legislative Update

January 24, 2010


"Kids need as many people to love them as possible. That's what grandparents are."

Judy Burns, Grandparents' Rights of Washington

Hearing on HB 2421, Jan. 13, 2010


QUESTION: What is the difference between a child abuser and an abused child?


ANSWER: The child abuser gets an attorney.





Another legislative session has begun, and again, the budget is the big issue with a $2.6 billion deficit in the 2009-2011 biennium.  And again, I am asking for your help.  FCJA is primarily concerned with policy and issues of justice, but even the most straightforward ideas are likely to have a fiscal note.


We believe that legal representation is a constitutional right.  In the words of Jim Theofelis, Executive Director and Founder of the Mockingbird Society, most of us would mortgage our homes or go into debt before we would allow our child to walk into a courtroom without an attorney.  Why should a foster child be treated any differently?  It's hard to imagine when a child's rights need to be protected more than when decisions are being made that will forever change the rest of his or her life.


But attorneys are expensive, and the state has no money.  Is that the child's fault?  No, but bills that cost money are not likely to pass this year.  That's where you come in.  The bill, HB 2735, suggested by Columbia Legal Services and sponsored by Representative Goodman, is simply a notification bill.  It doesn't require the appointment of any more attorneys.  It informs children over 12 of their right under existing law to request an attorney, if they feel they need one.  A judge would still need to agree that one was necessary.  This is very modest, frankly more modest than I would like, but in this budget we can't take anything for granted.  Please contact your representatives and senators in support.





Continuity of care and a child's psychological bonds continues to be a big concern.  The dependant bond that develops between a child and a long term caregiver is not respected.  Children suffering the loss of contact with their family members form new attachments, only to lose those, too.  Grandparents and other relatives who become the primary caregivers for years at a time, often the only stable parental bonds the child has ever known, find they have no special rights enabling them to be a part of their child’s life, despite having both a psychological and blood relation.  Children are often removed without any transition or visitation allowed, despite the traumatic impact this has on the child.


This session Representative Pedersen, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has sponsored HB 2421 to allow persons with significant relationships to petition the court for 3rd party visitation if they can show by "clear and convincing evidence" that the child is being or would be harmed if visitation is not granted.  To be clear, this is a very high standard to meet - and it should be high.  Our primary concern at FCJA is for those situations where a non-parent has had a custodial relationship for long period of time, and the impact on the child of having that relationship ruptured.


This is an issue that impacts foster children.  As a foster dad that lost someone very special, I can tell you that I would give anything if I could have seen Sirita again, to be sure she was okay, and let her know we still loved her.  (If you don't know that story, it's on my original website,  It was 5 years ago this very month.) 


HB 2421 did not get Executive Action.  It needs your help to get out of committee, or it's dead.  Please contact your representative today in support of children's rights, especially if your representative is on the Judiciary Committee.  It's a toll free call: 1-800-562-6000.


Some of you started down this road with me five years ago.  Some of you are new to this mailing list today.  Either way, Washington State's foster children need you.  Nothing happens without your e-mails and phone calls.  Thank you for standing up for them.



Gary Malkasian

FCJA President



House Judiciary Committee Members







Rep. Jamie Pedersen (Chair)

District 43

(360) 786-7826

JLOB 318

Rep. Dennis Flannigan

District 27

(360) 786-7930

JLOB 335

Rep. Roger Goodman

District 45

(360) 786-7878

JLOB 320

Rep. Troy Kelley

District 28

(360) 786-7890

JLOB 319

Rep. Steve Kirby

District 29

(360) 786-7996

JLOB 432

Rep. Timm Ormsby

District 3

(360) 786-7946

LEG 122F

Rep. Mary Helen Roberts

District 21

(360) 786-7950

JLOB 315

Rep. Jay Rodne

District 5

(360) 786-7852

JLOB 437

Rep. Charles Ross

District 14

(360) 786-7856

JLOB 418

Rep. Matt Shea

District 4

(360) 786-7984

JLOB 405

Rep. Judy Warnick

District 13

(360) 786-7932

JLOB 403



ACTION ITEMS:  Contact your representatives in SUPPORT of HB 2735: Legal Representation, and HB 2421: Third Party Visitation


Read our annual think tank report & recommendations online: 2010 Foster Care Policy Think Tank Report




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HB 2421 Concerning third-party visitation

Sponsored by Rep. Jamie Pedersen

Supported by Grandparents' Rights of Washington, Foster Care Justice Alliance, the Mocking Bird Society, and the Child Welfare Advocacy Coalition


Status: Heard in the House Judiciary Committee, January 13, 2010 - needs Executive Action: PLEASE PASS


·        Establishes procedures for a non-parent to petition the court for visitation with a child if they have “an ongoing and substantial relationship with a child,” as defined within the bill.

·        A person may not petition for visitation if the child’s two parents are living together with the child and both parents agree that visitation should not be granted.

·        Creates a presumption that a fit parent acts in the child’s best interests and requires the petitioner to refute the presumption by showing clear and convincing evidence that the child would likely suffer harm or the substantial risk of harm if visitation were not granted.

·        Requires the petitioner to show by clear and convincing evidence that visitation is in the child’s best interests. 


Watch the House Judiciary Committee hearing on  Hearing on HB 2421 starts about 00:07:08:



  • Thank Rep. Jamie Pedersen, Chair of House Judiciary, for hearing 2421. Please PASS!

(360) 786-7826,

  • Ask your representative to SUPPORT HB 2421




HB 2735 An act relating to the representation of children in dependency matters

Sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman

Proposed by Columbia Legal Services

Supported by Foster Care Justice Alliance and the Child Welfare Advocacy Coalition


Status: Hearing scheduled in the House Judiciary Committee, Wednesday, January 27, at 8 AM, John L. O'Brien Building, Room JLOB 210-A - PLEASE PASS


House Bill 2735 directs the department, supervising agency and guardian ad litem of a dependent child at least 12 years old to notify this child of his or her right to request counsel, and ask the child whether or not he or she wishes to have counsel.  The court is then directed to inquire whether a child, at least 12 years old in a dependency proceeding, received notice of his or her right to request legal counsel.



  • Thank Rep. Jamie Pedersen, Chair of House Judiciary, for hearing 2735. Please PASS!

(360) 786-7826,

  • Ask your representative to SUPPORT HB 2735



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