Commission on Children in Foster Care
Feb 22, 2010
Justice Bobbe Bridge, (ret.) Washington State Supreme Court, Commission Co-Chair
Ms. Denise Revels Robinson, DSHS Children’s Administration, Commission Co-Chair
Mr. Jim Bamberger, Director, Office of Civil Legal Aid
Ms. Chori Folkman, Tribal Representative
Ms. Joanne Moore, Director, Office of Public Defense
Mr. Ryan Murrey, Washington State CASA
Judge Kitty Ann van Doorninck (on behalf of Judge Eitzen, SCJA president)
Members not present: Ms. Annie Blackledge, OSPI; Mr. Steve Hassett, AGO; Mike and Beth Canfield, Co-chairs, FPAW; Senator James Hargrove, WA State Senate; Rep. Ruth Kagi, WA State House; Mr. Julio V. A. Carranza, Foster Youth Alumnus; Ms. Sassi Ellsworth, youth in foster care representative.
Guests: Mr. Greg Dootson, CFSR Senior Coordinator; Mr. Patrick Dowd, Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman; Mr. Ron Murphy, Mr. Na’im Williams, and Mr. LaRon Burris, The Fatherhood Council; Mr. Tim Jaasko-Fisher, UW Law School; Ms. Barb Putnam, DSHS/Children’s Administration; Ms. Nancy Roberts-Brown, Director, Catalyst for Kids; Ms. Cindy Ellingson, DSHS; Mr. Rick Coplen, AOC; Ms. Janet McLane, AOC; Mr. Carl McCurley, WSCCR; Ms. Nicole Jensen, DSHS DDD; Mr. Doug Washburn, DSHS DDD.
Mr. Michael Curtis, Executive Director, CCFC
Ms. Karen Castillo, Administrative Office of the Courts
Call to Order:
Justice Bridge called the meeting to order.
Welcome and Introductions:
Justice Bridge welcomed the group and everyone introduced themselves.
Approval of 10/19/09 and 12/21/09 Meeting Minutes
Justice Bridge asked for a motion to approve the meeting minutes of October 19, 2009, with amendments proposed by Joanne Moore. Ms. Moore moved that the meeting minutes be approved as amended. Ms. Folkman seconded the motion. The 10/19/09 meeting minutes were adopted unanimously as amended. Justice Bridge asked for a motion to approve the meeting minutes of December 21, 2009, with amendments proposed by Jim Bamberger. Mr. Bamberger moved that the meeting minutes be approved as amended. Ms. Moore seconded the motion. The 12/21/09 meeting minutes were adopted unanimously as amended.
Justice Bridge commented that, since he began his new job as counsel for the Yakama Nation, Julio Carranza, our Foster Care Alumnus has not been able to make any of the Commission meetings. Much to his chagrin, it doesn’t appear that he will be able to make it to the meetings. Because he understands the importance of having the foster youth alumnus voice on the Commission, he has regretfully resigned. We are in search of a replacement for him. Justice Bridge said that she welcomes any suggestions from anyone with regard to finding a good replacement for Julio. She said she would like to get that position filled before the next meeting. Members are encouraged to contact Justice Bridge with their suggestions.
Children’s Administration Reports
Ms. Revels Robinson asked Rick Coplen to share his thoughts on the recent meeting of those working on the CFSR. Mr. Coplen commented that Judge Jones and Bill Stanton, who both are federal contractors for the Children’s Bureau, met with Chief Justice Madsen, DSHS Secretary Dreyfus, Asst. Secretary Robinson, Judge van Doorninck, Justice Bridge, Jeff Hall, Rick Coplen, Janet Skreen, Judge Costello, Judge Hubbard, and Judge Clark. Mr. Coplen commented that, as a participant, he thought it was a very good start with dialogue at a high policy level, which he hopes will continue. All the feedback about the meeting was very positive, he added.
Ms. Revels Robinson agreed, describing it as “formally informal” – a fairly small group, cozy enough for there to be real dialogue. She added that she has spoken with Mr. Dootson about the discussion of the benefits of having judges on the CFSR team and said she would like to see at least three judges (one for each of the three on-site visits) on the review team. She asked for recommendations. Judge van Doorninck said she’d like to volunteer. Justice Bridge said that Judge Clark is also interested. Mr. Dootson noted that August 25 and 26 are the dates of the trainings for the review.
Justice Bridge said that one of the key reasons for having this meeting with the Chief Justice acting as a convener was to provide a visible manifestation of the partnership that the courts and DSHS share on this review. She added that the CFSR is as much a review of the courts as it is of the rest of the child welfare system. The Chief, she said, understands the importance of this process for the court system.
Mr. Greg Dootson, the Senior Coordinator of the CFSR reviewed the kick-off events that took place in January and provided materials pertaining to that. He reported that the first state assessment team meeting is next week. With regard to the assessment, issues are already starting to emerge. The statewide team will convene next week, as well as the first of March and the first of April to analyze and assess the status of practice in the areas outlined in the packet – safety, permanency and well being. The CCFC and the Family Services Advisory Commission have agreed to provide oversight. He said that he will look to the Commission for guidance as concerns are identified and the improvement plan develops.
Mr. Dootson introduced Ms. Nancy Roberts-Brown, who has been on their internal operational team regarding the assessment process, to address community collaboration. Ms. Roberts Brown reported that she is there to represent the community interests and do all she can to make sure that community members and constituents are actively involved along the way. She said they have four “veteran parents” (i.e., parent who have been involved in the child welfare system) on the steering committee; two of the fathers are here at the table, she noted. Two veteran mothers were at the kick off meeting on January 27. This is making a significant difference.
Ms. Cindy Ellingson reported that since Round One of the CFSR progress has been made in helping move child welfare services forward. There has been a big change in how we do business with the 24-72 hour requirement, she noted. Family Team Decision Making also came from Round One and has been very successful in many areas, but needs to be strengthened. CPS and CWS are redesigned. An area of particular success has been monthly visits with the social workers. Kids get to permanency quicker if they are seen monthly by their social workers. Mr. Dootson commented that the presentation that the Federal partners gave illustrated that monthly visits by the social workers is key.
Mr. Coplen noted that the courts have been brought in much sooner. The SCJA has been meeting with the CA on a quarterly basis and have been actively involved in planning the CFSR since before 2007.
2010 Legislative Session
Judge van Doorninck said that there are several dependency bills being looked at. One bill would provide that the parent can choose the relative that the child will be placed with; this is an issue that the SCJA is still working.
Justice Bridge noted that legislation is moving forward that helps with Washington’s implementation of the Federal Fostering Connections Act, to ensure that the state is in a position to take advantage of the additional monies available through the Federal government.
Joanne Moore commented that the guardianship bill – HB 2680 – seems to be moving forward.
Ms. Revels Robinson added that, with regard to HB2106, there are proposed changes that would give the Children’s Administration an additional 6 months to implement performance based contracts. The other change provides committee voting rights to the foster care alumni or youth on the 2106 Transformation Design Committee and a recommendation to extend the amount of time for Phase Two to transition the family cases from the state to a private agency, and at the end of Phase Two, after the demonstration sites are evaluated, if the governor decides to expand and use the private agencies, they would identify preference going to state staff and also clarify that tribal government won’t be negatively impacted. See: SSB6832
Justice Bridge asked Ms. Folkman if she had information about Senator Kaufmann’s bill on Indian Child Welfare. It is a bill mandating an active effort to conform to Federal ICWA laws, standard of proof, etc. Mr. Murrey said that it passed the Senate and is now in the House. See: SB6470
Ms. Moore referenced another bill providing for informing youth in dependencies of their right to an attorney, and said it passed the House unanimously and had a Senate Hearing on Friday. Justice Bridge commented that the question will be whether or not it makes the cut off, which is happening this week. See: HB2735
Mr. Patrick Dowd introduced Mr. LaRon Burris, who discussed the Fatherhood Council and its mission. A PowerPoint presentation was made to the Commission (in the meeting packet), which Mr. Dowd narrated. He said that studies have shown that the involvement of fathers in the lives of their children significantly improves outcomes for the children. When fathers aren’t involved, children are more likely to experience poverty and suffer child abuse and neglect; they are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school, to use drugs, alcohol and tobacco. They are two to three times more likely to drop out of school. (These studies are not limited to children in foster care.)
Mr. Dowd reported that in 2008, Federal HHS published a report that analyzed case data from the cases that had been reviewed in 2006. Reunification likeliness was significantly greater (48 percent vs. 16 percent of cases) when the father was involved. The study looked at the level of involvement in terms of financial support and frequency of visitation. Reunification occurred more quickly when fathers were involved, and the likelihood of termination of parental rights was reduced.
Mr. Na’im Williams discussed improved efforts to engage fathers, and statistics concerning involvement of fathers in the CWS and the bias against them. Mr. Burris said that some of the projects currently going on in WA State to engage fathers include Divine Alternatives for Dads and Scan Center Fatherhood Project. He noted that veteran fathers are leading support groups for child-welfare-involved fathers.
Mr. Ron Murphy summarized by saying that the objective of this project is to make the fathers of children in the child welfare system a viable resource for the child. He said that some of this work is connected to the 2003-2004 CFSR. There was a great deal of work around the state to get fathers involved in the issues related to father engagement. Six forums were held involving the Children’s Administration, Office of Support Enforcement, and various community agencies to bring about a certain level of awareness.
Mr. Murphy made a twofold request:
1) That a representative of the Fatherhood Council be added to the membership of the CCFC. He said that the issue, in part, is that, like other constituents – foster parents, youth and alumni – having fathers involved in forums such as this can add legitimacy to the efforts of the Fatherhood Council and provide valuable input and recommendations.
2) That the Commission establish a Fatherhood Work Group to address initiatives outlined in their presentation, including: engaging fathers and paternal family members; improving access to services for fathers; addressing collateral legal matters; promoting gender-neutral permanency. In summary, having fathers considered as a viable resource for permanency for children.
Justice Bridge responded that these requests will be on the CCFC agenda for discussion at the next meeting. A question and answer session followed.
Implementation of ESSB 6792 (in-court interview of dependent youth)
Ms. Janet McLane distributed a one-page sheet entitled, “Dependent Youth Interview Project (DYI)” and discussed the project. The purpose is for the court to hear directly from the youth, without filters, what the youth’s wishes are. The project charges the AOC and the Children’s Administration to implement and evaluate the project in 5 pilot sites. The Washington Center for Court Research has taken a lead role in implementing the program and conducting the evaluation.
Ms. McLane explained that there are two primary data collection instruments. One is aimed at the court, and is something that the judicial officer uses every time there is a hearing of a youth; the other is one that the youth is asked to complete regarding level of satisfaction with the hearing and the youth’s perception of the court. She said that they are halfway through the data collection process of the survey in the four pilot sites. They are continuing to collect those surveys, and that will continue until the end of June. They have done some preliminary analysis but will continue to dig deeper.
Some of the information they have gleaned through the first part of January includes the following:
Over 600 forms from courts have been received, representing 660 dependency hearings – shelter care and various others. The courts’ pre-implementation estimates of youth (over 12) attendance at court hearings have proven accurate, with about ½ of these youth attending the hearings. Eligible youth are attending 52 percent of the hearings – 343 of the cases. Of those youth that attended, 25 percent took advantage of their right to have an interview with the judge. Judges are reporting interviews ranging between 5 – 30 minutes long. The average length of interviews is 10 minutes, so not a huge disruption. She said that, with regard to youth surveys, they are getting a good response. 78 percent of the youth who attended hearings completed the survey. Of those who opted to talk to the judge separately, 51 percent agreed that they spoke to the judge about something they didn’t want to talk about in the hearing itself. She said they expect that this pattern may hold, but they may be surprised. They will be able to look at responses from each of the four court jurisdictions to see if there are subtle or not so subtle differences either reported by youth or by the court. They’ll be able to see how the youths’ level of satisfaction in their views of the court correlates with their level of participation. In the spring, in conjunction with Justice Bridge and others who are interested, they will develop some structured interviews that will give them more information from judges, court commissioners, CASAs, and social workers. They will interview all those who played a role and see from their perspective what went well, and how difficult, or feasible it may be – for example, if scheduling hearings during the school day presents a problem, what can be done from the court’s perspective in rethinking the way the court schedules hearings.
Court Improvement Training Academy/Tables of Ten Project
Mr. Tim Jaasko-Fisher narrated a PowerPoint Presentation pertaining to the work of the Court Improvement Training Academy (CITA), hard copies of which were distributed to the members of the Commission. He discussed the Training programs that are available through CITA and the outcomes they have measured thus far. He also discussed in detail the “Tables of Ten” concept that he developed, which has been implemented in several counties across the state. A question and answer session followed.
Foster Youth Education Summit and Child Welfare Decision-Makers Summits
Justice Bridge said that this agenda item will be moved to the next meeting in order to provide sufficient time for the Transitioning out of Foster Care presentation.
Transition Work Group
Ms. Barb Putnam, who supervises the Well Being and Adolescent Services unit at DSHS, provided a PowerPoint Presentation and discussed the information therein. Hard copies of the presentation were distributed to the members of the Commission.
Mr. Doug Washburn of the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) also provided information. He said that the staff at the Children’s Administration and the staff at the DDD now work very closely, which has improved over the past year. On both statewide and regional levels, they are trying to keep people from falling through the cracks, he said, adding that the complaints they hear are because foster parents 1) waited too long to ask for DD care, or 2) they didn’t meet soon enough to develop a realistic plan for the DD foster child. In the Transition planning for kids between the ages of 16-21, the school district is very instrumental.
Ms. Revels Robinson said that part of their next step in terms of partnership will be to continue to look at DDD in how they can enhance services. They will also talk with social workers regarding DD eligibility and provide training for social workers.
A brief question and answer session followed.
Next Meeting & Adjournment
The next meeting of the Foster Care Commission will be on May 17, 2010.
The meeting was adjourned.
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