Commission on Children in Foster Care
September 27, 2010
Justice Bobbe Bridge, (ret.) Washington State Supreme Court, Commission Co-Chair
Ms. Denise Revels Robinson, DSHS Children’s Administration, Commission Co-Chair
Ms. Annie Blackledge, OSPI
Ms. Beth Canfield, Co-Chair, Foster Parents Association of WA
Ms. Chori Folkman, NW Intertribal Courts Representative
Mr. Steve Hassett, Attorney General’s office
Rep. Ruth Kagi, WA State House of Representatives
Ms. Jennifer Strus, WA State Senate (on behalf of Senator Hargrove)
Ms. Jeannie Kee, Foster Youth Alumnus
Ms. Joanne Moore, Director, Office of Public Defense
Ms. Barbara James, Washington State CASA
Judge Kitty Ann van Doorninck (for Judge Steve Warning, SCJA)
Members not present: Mr. Jim Bamberger, Ms. Sassi Ellsworth; Mr. Mike Canfield
Chief Justice Barbara Madsen; Ms. Lisa Kelly; Ms. Laurie Lippold; Ms. Rachael DelVillar-Fox; Ms. Jorene Reiber; Ms. Deborah Purce; Ms. Jann Hoppler
Mr. Michael Curtis, Executive Director
Mr. Rick Coplen, AOC Court Services
Ms. Karen Castillo, Administrative Office of the Courts
Mr. Joseph Timmons, CCYJ
Welcome and Introductions:
Justice Bridge called the meeting to order and welcomed everyone present. She introduced Joseph Timmons, a UW/Evans School intern with CCYJ, who will be providing support to the Commission.
Approval of Meeting Minutes
Justice Bridge asked if there were any changes or corrections needed to the minutes of the last two meetings. Judge van Doorninck moved the minutes of May 17, 2010 be approved; Rep. Kagi seconded. The draft of the May 17, 2010 meeting minutes was approved unanimously.
Two name spelling corrections were offered for the draft of the June 25, 2010 meeting minutes. Judge van Doorninck then moved the minutes of June 25, 2010 be approved; Rep. Kagi seconded. The meeting minutes draft was approved unanimously as amended.
Children’s Administration Reports
Asst. Secretary Denise Revels Robinson reported that there were no surprises in the Children and Family Services Review (CFSR) and that they were already aware of the practice issues that need to be addressed.
Ms. Jann Hoppler and Ms. Deborah Purce provided additional information, reviewing information contained in two hand-outs that included the preliminary findings. Ms. Hoppler informed they are now through the second of four phases within the process, with developing the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) the next step.
Ms. Hoppler and Ms. Purce reported that in the preliminary findings all areas of the review are less than “substantially achieved” and therefore require improvement. A closer look shows that the highest performing areas included: meeting physical and mental health needs of children in foster care, meeting educational needs, and preserving connections with parents, siblings and other family members. A mid-level performance rating was given in the area of safety, which includes protecting children from abuse and neglect and keeping children at home safely. The lowest performance rating was in the areas of enhancing family capacity to meet children’s needs and providing permanency and stability for children in foster care. There was ensuing discussion about permanency and the way it is measured.
In response to Justice Bridge’s inquiry with regard to the intersection of the PIP and HB2106 implementation, Asst. Secretary Revels Robinson replied that the onsite review confirmed that they are on the right path and that HB2106 implementation addresses some of the CFSR-identified gaps.
In response to Rep. Kagi’s inquiry, Asst. Secretary Revels Robinson informed that the Federal review team is aware of our state’s budget situation. She added that, although they weren’t able to provide a “bottom line” on the budget, they did inform that there will be layoffs.
Judge van Doorninck commented that at the Pierce County Reasonable Efforts Symposium, a topic of conversation was “What can we stop doing?” (in the face of the budget cuts). Asst. Secretary Revels Robinson replied that, in light of the budget reductions, it will be necessary to reset expectations and determine the essential core functions of a public welfare system.
Rep. Kagi hopes the one good thing to come out of this budget crisis is that every agency will identify redundant processes that can be eliminated. Noting the amount of time wasted on unnecessary duplicative processes, she informed that the legislature is interested in revising statutes to address this issue.
Joseph Timmons provided the Decision Makers’ Summit oversight report on the 63 commitments resulting from the three summits held in 2009. Justice Bridge commented that, because this is the first one, compiling the report took a lot of time and attention, noting that the information is quite detailed. She said that in the future the oversight report will be provided in advance of the meeting.
· King County Mediation Project
Ms.Rachael DelVillar-Fox gave a Power Point Presentation on the (Court Improvement Program-funded) mediation project in King County. To date they have offered mediation services in 49 dependency cases. Preliminary data analysis shows mediated cases achieving timeliness standards about 89 percent of the time, compared to 50 percent for non-mediated cases. The next step for the project is expanding the research to find out what is working and what needs improvement.
Representative Kagi commented that it appears that mediation saves a lot of process and asked if the time savings can be calculated. Ms. Fox replied that they haven’t been able to graph this, but they think it will be easier to determine how much time is saved by social workers because they are not in court every day. Most of the cases (61 percent) were resolved through agreement and in almost all cases, only one mediation session lasting two or three hours was needed. Earlier engagement is best, she noted.
A question and answer period followed.
· Foster Youth Education Summit
Justice Bridge discussed the next steps with regard to Foster Youth Education Summit-related activities. A convening of funders to review the commitments coming from the Decision Makers summits, resulted in a challenge from the Stuart Foundation. Stating that the Foster Youth Education Summit recommendations around education are too timid, the Stuart Foundation said that they would be interested in doing a summit “redux” to bring people together, share best practices, and to focus on what could be done. Soon thereafter, the College Success Foundation was asked by Children’s Administration to develop a report that outlines the state’s responsibility in the area of education for children in foster care, and to prepare a vision for implementation of that responsibility through best practices. The College Success Foundation provided the Stuart Foundation with the requested report. Stuart remains very interested in a collaboration, and has offered to provide technical and monetary resources to move forward in more progressive and assertive ways to improve outcomes for foster children in the education system. Once the 2106 master contracting process has concluded, a series of meetings will be planned to develop goals and move forward on this effort.
Children’s Representation Workgroup
Professor Lisa Kelly presented information regarding Section 5 of HB2735, requiring that the AOC, working in coordination with the Commission on Children in Foster Care, provide recommendations for voluntary training and caseload standards for attorneys who represent children in dependency matters. She reported that to comply with this legislative mandate the Child Representation Work Group was reconvened with a few new members added. The AOC is to report to the Legislature by December 31 with those recommendations.
Prof. Kelly said that the workgroup is very large and expert and includes some CCFC members (Ms. Moore and Mr. Hassett). She added that it is divided into three smaller focus groups: Caseload Standards, Training Standards, and General Practice Standards. The groups meet separately and as a whole. She said that they hope to have their final meeting on November 3, and anticipate that, at that point, they will be fine tuning the written recommendations from the three subgroups and synthesizing the information into one final document.
Ms. Moore added that in response to a concern about potential skewing of the recommendations due to the number of King County members, OPD conducted a statewide survey of parents and attorneys. The survey provided a means by which to attain broader input.
Justice Bridge informed that the focus of the Commission’s December 20 meeting will be a review/discussion of the recommendations.
Ms. Revels Robinson asked Professor Kelly if there are discussions about funding for attorneys, because the legislation doesn’t address that. In response, Professor Kelly replied that they want to create standards that will make counsel meaningful for young people, but at the same time won’t be so costly that no one will adopt them.
Reasonable Efforts Symposia
Pursuant to a recommendation from Rick Coplen, Nancy Roberts Brown (Catalyst for Kids) requested that the Commission address the issue of homelessness and the child welfare system. The request was made in order to elevate the issue’s prominence so those involved with the planning of the Reasonable Efforts Symposia would include it as a topic at their respective symposium.
Commission members discussed issues related to housing and child welfare. Rep. Kagi noted that the Gates Foundation will be providing funding for community collaboration on the housing issue in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties. Asst. Secretary Revels Robinson informed that she has been attending planning meetings for this effort and that Children’s Administration regional administrators are working with local housing authorities. Justice Bridge commented that HUD’s Under Secretary Ron Simms perceives an underutilization of federal resources and he is working on improving communication, collaboration, and outreach. She said that, in response to meetings with various individuals from Washington State, he is interested in establishing an interagency work group at the HUD level.
Expanding the conversation, Ms. Annie Blackledge commented that with many of the work groups with which she’s been involved there has been a continuing discussion of implementing an integrated multi-systems approach to deal with these issues. However, while the talk of a collaborative approach has been ongoing for the past ten years, systems integration has not been achieved. She informed that OSPI is working on school reform that might address all of these children groups, but the question remains: How do we move from collaboration to integration? She added that there is a study that looks at the various policies and practices at federal and state levels that are barriers to our systems functioning together.
There was additional discussion about ways to develop an integrated systems approach to serving the needs of vulnerable children and youth, including collecting and analyzing relevant data. Justice Bridge said that she and Asst. Secretary Revels Robinson will meet with Joseph Timmons and Michael Curtis to determine needed resources and a work plan for data needs.
With respect to homelessness becoming a topic at the Reasonable Efforts Symposia, Mr. Rick Coplen said that at the November meeting of the Reasonable Efforts Symposium coordinators, he will recommend the issue be presented as a topic for a break-out session. To provide support for this recommendation he asked members for suggestions on how to bring the topic to a level that would make it a priority for those in attendance at a symposium.
Justice Bridge replied that it is fundamental in its nature. Housing stability has been at the root of a lot of problems with kids. Rep. Kagi said that the matter of housing came up because of a meeting held by the House Committee on Early Learning and Children’s Services that focused on housing. She said that there was a case presented as an example in which a mom was told to get housing by the court, but she couldn’t afford housing. Educating the court is a critical piece of this, she added. Judge van Doorninck questioned using the symposia as the approach for educating judicial officers in that only a few actually attend the Reasonable Efforts Symposia. Mr. Hassett opined that this is a good subject for a symposium. He said that the department offering the services should be the one to do it. He noted that it is not unusual that the DSHS/CA service plans say, “The parent shall demonstrate their ability to provide stable housing for the child.” Ms. Blackledge suggested bringing the local housing coordinator into the discussion.
Justice Bridge added that it is important to realize how complex this issue of housing is, how far it reaches, and how deeply it can impact each case. She suggested inviting people to the meetings who they don’t normally invite, like those involved in housing.
a. Best Practices Workgroup membership.
It was noted by Justice Bridge that she and Asst. Secretary Revels Robinson need to appoint a chair of the Best Practices Work Group.
b. Creating a Foster Care Transitions workgroup
Justice Bridge said that Mr. Hassett has developed this a bit, but we still aren’t certain what we want from this workgroup. Mr. Hassett said that there are high level meetings going on with the Developmental Disabilities Division, but there is also the ongoing issue of the Fostering Connections Act and how that’s going to play out. It would be instructive to know how Washington’s implementation of the Act addresses this issue, to better identify whether there is a need for this work group, and if there is a need, the specific gaps to be addressed.
c. Commission Membership
Before making a request to the Supreme Court to add two membership categories of private provider and child welfare system alumnus parent, Justice Bridge inquired if the Commission still wants to add a private provider member as well as a veteran parent member.
Judge van Doorninck commented that she has concern about adding representatives for group who don’t have formal organizations to which they report back and also the private provider in terms of whom they might represent. Ms. Chori Folkman added that FPAWS determines through its own hierarchy who will represent them, and something like that would be useful. She said she agrees with Judge van Doorninck that we don’t know if the private provider will represent the broader community or just its own interests.
Representative Kagi agreed with Judge van Doorninck’s concerns. She asked if one private provider off the master subcontractors list would be selected by the Commission to represent all. She added that the legislature has encouraged the providers to get together and have one representative.
Ms. Lippold informed the members that the state Parent Advocacy Committee (PAC) is well organized and that they have a local PAC as well.
Rep. Kagi moved to ask the Supreme Court for the addition of a Parent Advocacy Committee member; Mr. Steve Hassett seconded. The committee agreed unanimously to ask the Supreme Court for the addition of a PAC member.
No further action was taken with regard to adding a private provider seat on the Commission.
a. Supreme Court Commissions, Boards & Committees Assessment
Justice Madsen thanked the members for allowing her time to talk with them about the recent Assessment of Supreme Court Commissions.
She informed that when the Justice who chaired the Minority and Justice Commission retired the questions were asked: Do we still need certain commissions? What is the role of these boards and commissions within the framework of the AOC and the broader Supreme Court?
In response she created a task force comprised of representatives of the groups in question plus community stakeholders impacted by these groups. Chief Justice Madsen said that the members of the task force were surprised to find how little all these groups communicate with each other. Some were working on pieces of the same thing and not consulting with each other. The Task Force studied the problem and came up with the recommendation to improve inter-commission communication by creating a management team comprised of people who represent the boards and commissions and a few people from the outside that have a stake in the issues being undertaken The management team wouldn’t have any authority, but will perform an audit function to make sure that the vision is being carried forward; and if not, to recommend a reconfiguration of the group or committee, either by consolidating or by saying that this is no longer an issue in which the court should be involved. Chief Justice Madsen also expressed concerns with regard to the Commissions’ future, given the current economic crisis and the need to prioritize services. To aid in the budgeting process, judges from across the state were asked to prioritize the services provided by the AOC. She is concerned that the commissions addressing the quality of justice may not be considered a priority to them. However, when the budget cutting has concluded, within the funds remaining she is committed to supporting the important work being done by the various commissions.
Mr. Curtis noted that because its work extends beyond “access to justice” issues, impacts more than the courts and is comprised of key leaders from other branches of government, it’s difficult for him to see how CCFC fits within this restructuring effort. He suggested a simple approach for improving communication between the Commissions is to convene the Commission chairs periodically throughout the year, at which time they can discuss what they are doing.
Justice Bridge added that the CCFC has been able to get a lot accomplished with virtually no drawing down of resources.
Rep. Kagi said that she views the CCFC and its work as one of the most valuable mechanisms that we have, adding that the CFSR remarked on the improvements in the courts. She said that there is also an important link to the Supreme Court; she noted that there are no justices on the court other than Justice Alexander who, as judges, actually worked on child welfare issues.
a. Foster Youth & Alumni Leadership Summit Recommendations
Justice Bridge said that this effort will be led by Jeannie Kee as the Foster alumnus. Justice Bridge is on the Advisory Committee.
b. Other New Business
Justice Bridge informed the members that, this afternoon, she and Asst. Secretary. Revels Robinson will be interviewing a person to represent Youth in Foster Care, and she hopes to have him on board very soon. He is a young man from Thurston County, so he should have no difficulty attending the meetings, she added.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
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