Commission on Children in Foster Care
June 27, 2012
Justice Bobbe Bridge, (ret.) Washington State Supreme Court, Commission Co-Chair
Asst. Secretary Denise Revels Robinson, DSHS Children’s Administration, Commission Co-Chair
Mr. Mike Canfield, Co-Chair, Foster Parents Association of Washington
Mr. Ron Hertel, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
Ms. Chorisia Folkman, NW Intertribal Court System Representative
Ms. Carrie Wayno, Attorney General’s Office
Rep. Ruth Kagi, Washington State House of Representatives
Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, Washington State House of Representatives
Judge Kitty Van Doorninck, Superior Court Judges Association
Ms. Jeannie Kee, Foster Youth Alumni Representative
Mr. Ryan Cummings, Foster Youth Representative
Members not present:
Ms. Beth Canfield; Mr. Jim Bamberger; Ms. Joanne Moore; Ms. Barbara James
Ms. Courtney Millan, CCFC Intern, CCYJ
Staff not present:
Mr. Michael Curtis, Executive Director
Ms. Susan Peterson, Administrative Office of the Courts
Call to Order:
Justice Bridge called the meeting to order at the 2012 Foster Youth and Alumni Leadership Summit.
Welcome and Introductions:
Justice Bridge welcomed Commission members and thanked the Mockingbird Society for the opportunity to hear from the youth. Commission members introduced themselves. Justice Bridge and Assistant Secretary Denise Revels Robinson stressed that this meeting is the most important Commission meeting of the year in that Commission members are able to hear from the consumers of the system that the Commission is working to improve.
Mr. Fredrick Kingston, interim Director of Programs for the Mockingbird Society moderated the youth presentations. Youth from all six regions had a designated time to present their recommendations to the Commission, followed by questions from the Commission.
Region 1 North, Spokane:
Youth from Spokane discussed the concerns of youth transitioning out of care and their need for “17.5” meetings to connect them with the resources and support they need to successfully transition into adulthood. Youth explained that sometimes “17.5” meetings take place without the youth actually present or the youth does not understand or realize that the “17. 5” meeting took place. Youth recommended changing the transition plan to explicitly require that certain documents and key records such as health records and birth certificates be provided to the youth before the completion of the plan or their transition out of care. They also recommended that the transition plan not only be signed by the youth and the social worker but by the judge as well before they turn 18.
One youth explained that she transitioned out of care and requested her documents and key records last year and has still yet to receive them. Assistant Secretary Revels Robinson said that this issue is important and it is not acceptable that this is happening. She assured youth that she will take this back to Children’s Administration in order to improve the quality, level of participation and outcomes of these “17.5” meetings.
Region 1 South, Yakima:
Youth from Yakima discussed the need to ensure safe housing for youth aging out of care. Youth who choose not to continue their education or who are not in a position due to a disability, lack of funds or other hardship do not have a safe housing option. Youth recommended fully implementing the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act in Washington State and providing youth safe housing until 21 for those who are:
Representatives Kagi and Roberts, along with Judge Van Doorninck explained that the Fostering Connections Act is a federal law. There are six categories under the law and Washington State currently funds one of them. They said this is a complex issue.
Commission members asked youth if they had not chosen to go to college after high school why not. Many youth expressed that they did not feel prepared/ready to attend college. For many of the youth the transition out of care was a big step and they hadn’t thought further into attending college.
Mr. Hertel asked youth if there was a way school districts could do better to prepare them for college. The youth suggested talking more with a school counselor or more help in after-school programs. Youth also suggested getting more support overall for college and hearing this support from everyone around them such as foster parents or social workers.
Region 2 North, Everett:
Youth from Everett discussed the disproportionate amount of youth in care being prescribed psychotropic medications. Youth suggested having a 1-800 number for youth to be able to ask for mental health consultations when they are concerned about being overmedicated. Youth suggested extending the Partnership Access Line (PAL) giving access to foster youth and foster parents.
Commission members expressed that Washington State is doing better on this issue that other states and they are continuing to work on mental health and medication issues.
Youth suggested a workshop to educate judges on overmedicating foster youth and the affects that overmedication can have on youth. Judge Van Doorninck acknowledged that judges do have training and have been educated on this overall topic; however, they often do not know the specifics for each youth and she suggested that youth themselves educate judges on their specific medical issues when they meet with the judge. Justice Bridge also mentioned that there is a checklist for judges to follow when dealing with this issue.
Finally, Mr. Canfield mentioned that they are working with foster parents and advocating for levels of training for foster parents based on the level of need for the youth in their care.
Region 2 South, Seattle:
Youth from Seattle discussed the lack of a universal savings plan to help teach youth the value of saving money. Currently, there are financial resources provided to youth aging out of care such as Chaffee Funds, Education & Training Vouchers and Individual Development Accounts, but they are strictly limited to certain demographic categories and only cover immediate costs for basic necessities as opposed to being allowed for savings.
Youth suggested implementing a state-wide Exit Funds Savings Account Program which would provide youth in care with a savings account. They also recommended that the money youth deposit be matched at a pre-determined level by the program, which would give youth an additional incentive to save.
Commission members recognized that finding a funding stream for this would be difficult in the current economic climate. Commission members also asked questions of the youth regarding what this money would be used for that is different from the current available financial resources. Finally, Commission members and youth discussed financial literacy.
Region 3 North, Tacoma:
Youth from Tacoma discussed being kept from visiting their siblings for inappropriate reasons and using the prohibiting sibling visits as a punishment. One youth from Tacoma said that her foster parents did not allow her to see her siblings for 6 months as punishment. Youth suggested changing the language of policy to protect siblings’ rights to see each other.
Current policy RCW 13.34.136 states “Visitation shall not be limited as a sanction for a parent’s failure to comply with court orders or services where the health, safety, or welfare of the child is not at risk as a result of visitation.”
Youth suggested the statute be amended to provide “Visitation shall not be limited or threatened to be limited as a sanction for a youth’s failure to comply with case worker of foster parent’s requests or court orders. Denying or limiting sibling visits cannot be used as a form of punishment.”
Youth also suggested that foster parents receive more training on this issue.
Mr. Canfield reiterated that foster parents have been trained in this area and that they are not to use sibling visitation as a punishment. He apologized to the youth for this act.
Region 3 South, Olympia:
Youth from Olympia discussed having extended family support and permanent supportive connections. Youth expressed the desire to first have the opportunity to stay with extended family rather than staying with a foster family if it can be done safely. Many youth have lost connection with their extended family due to the foster care system.
Youth suggested that child welfare and child placement agencies conduct repeated searches for family, focusing on all forms of relationships. They also suggested a policy change under RCW 13.34.130 which currently states:
“It is not the intent of the legislature to create legal obligations or responsibilities between siblings and other family members whether by blood or marriage, step families, foster families, or adopted families that do not already exist….Finally, it is not the intent of the legislature to manufacture or anticipate family relationships which do not exist at the time of the court intervention, or to disrupt already existing positive family relationships.”
Youth suggested amending the statute to acknowledge the opportunity to create an extensive support system for each child by building on the connections that existed when they came into care. Youth in care are suffering from the loss of significant family. These connections can provide support, belonging and normalcy.
Assistant Secretary Revels Robinson and Justice Bridge thanked the youth for their professional presentations and each Commission member took the opportunity to give their support and thanks to the youth. Justice Bridge and Assistant Secretary Revels Robinson said they will follow-up on these presentations and topics at the next Commission meeting and take all recommendations into consideration.
The date for the next meeting is Monday, September 24, 2012, at the Temple of Justice, Chief Justice’s
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
Courtney Millan, CCFC intern
|Courts | Organizations | News | Opinions | Rules | Forms | Directory | Library|
|Back to Top | Privacy and Disclaimer Notices|