HB 2735 is now law in Washington State; SB 6516 & 6730 are dead for this session
"As a result of our investigative work, the Ombudsman found child welfare cases in which DCFS did not comply with law or policy—but perhaps even more challenging to address, our investigation revealed a culture of pervasive distrust between parties and stakeholders, poor communication, and a lack of collaboration among professionals which infects day to day decision-making and case planning for dependent children. This culture leads to unnecessary placement changes, delays in permanence for children, and ultimately, actions or inaction that put children and families at risk of harm."
Loss of Trust: A Crisis of Confidence in the Child Welfare System in Colville
Report by the Office of the Family and Children's Ombudsman, May 2009
Governor Gregoire signed HB 2735 this Tuesday, March 23, at 1:30 PM in in Olympia. This is the bill that would notify foster children 12 or older of their right to request an attorney. This was a modest bill to inform foster youth of their rights under *current law*, but still a step forward. Congrats to Columbia Legal Services for their successful advocacy of this bill, and thanks to everyone that wrote in.
The legislature is still in special session, but it is clear now that neither 6416 nor 6730 will make final passage during the special session. There were simply too many differences between what the two chambers wanted in the bills to handle in a short session that was focused primarily on the budget. This is disappointing, but sometimes it is better to step back work on something that can have broad stakeholder support, than force a bill just for the sake of saying we did something. We will continue to work on the issues that were in these two bills. For details on these and all the bills we tracked this session, scroll to the bottom of this e-mail.
The words of the Ombudsman's report that prompted the drafting of these bills still ring true. There is a pervasive culture of distrust between stakeholders. It goes far beyond Colville, and it was reflected in the contention over what policy these bills should contain. I know many excellent social workers. I've met good, wise judges. Most, if not all, truly want the best for children. Yet I am told by foster parents every day that they are "never doing this again". Maybe step one in regaining the trust that has been lost is that you are allowed to have an opinion, and I am allowed to disagree.
Most of the really damning cases that I have seen centered around a lack of respect given to the evidence presented by a foster parent, relative caregiver, or a mental health or medical provider associated with a case. The logic is that a caregiver who objects to the department's case plan is therefore an obstacle to reunification and therefore not acting in the best interest of the child. Not acting in the best interest of the child is equated to disagreeing with the department, and becomes a reason to remove a child. Do you want to restore trust? Start here: caregivers are allowed to disagree with the department. The expressing of an opinion is protected by a little something called the First Amendment. It should never be cause for removing a child from a safe, stable home. Or for refusing to place a child with a relative who is otherwise qualified and can provide a safe, stable home.
FCJA OPEN BOARD MEETING
The next meeting of the Foster Care Justice Alliance will be open to the public, at the Seattle Public Library, Mountlake Branch (near the U-District), at 11:30 AM, Saturday, April 10th. You are welcome to come join us.
Driving directions: http://www.spl.org/default.asp?pageID=branch_open_directions&branchID=18
Yahoo map: http://maps.yahoo.com/#mvt=m&lat=47.640344&lon=-122.302177&zoom=17&q1=2401%2024th%20Ave.%20E.%2C%2098112&gid1=39222451
Branch info: http://www.spl.org/default.asp?pageID=branch_open&branchID=18
Thank you to everyone that called or wrote in to your legislators, and thanks to...
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