Commission on Children in Foster Care
June 26, 2013
Justice Bobbe Bridge, (ret.) Washington State Supreme Court, Commission Co-Chair
Assistant Secretary Jennifer Strus, DSHS Children’s Administration, Commission Co-Chair
Mr. Jim Bamberger, Office of Civil Legal Aid
Mr. Mike Canfield, Co-Chair, Foster Parents Association of Washington
Ms. Jeannie Kee, Foster Youth Alumni Representative
Ms. Joanne Moore, Washington State Office of Public Defense
Ms. Tonia Morrison, Parent Advocate Representative
Judge Kitty-Ann van Doorninck, Superior Court Judges’ Association
Ms. Carrie Wayno, Attorney General’s Office
Members not present:
Ms. Beth Canfield; Mr. Ryan Cummings; Mr. Ken Emmil; Ms. Chorisia Folkman; Rep. Ruth Kagi;
Rep. Mary Helen Roberts; Executive Director at Washington State CASA.
Ms. Cindy Bricker, Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC); Justice Mary Fairhurst, Justice Steven González, and Justice Susan Owens of the Washington State Supreme Court; Christina Parker, Tulalip Office of Civil Legal Aid; Justice Debra Stevens, Washington State Supreme Court.
Ms. Alyson McLean, 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 2013 Foster Youth and Alumni Leadership Summit, Seattle University
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 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. Assistant Secretary Strus noted how effective the youth’s work has been at creating change.
Fred Kingston, Director of Youth Programs for the Mockingbird Society, welcomed everyone and thanked the Commission, community members, youth, Summit sponsors, and agencies represented. He introduced the Summit’s goals and the process for the Summit presentations. Sixty youth and alumni from across the state, representing all three Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) regions, had a designated time to present their recommendations to the Commission, followed by questions from the Commission. Mr. Kingston explained that the Summit has become a place where youth can develop new policies or promote current policies that they support and believe will help improve the foster care system.
Youth from Yakima discussed that the Extended Foster Care Program has proven to be an effective resource for youth who would otherwise age out of care with no support. However, the current Washington State Extended Foster Care legislation does not include two vulnerable groups of youth: those employed 80 hours or more per month; and, those with a medical condition preventing them from pursuing their education or employment. The Yakima youth recommended extending the Extended Foster Care Program to include all the categories included in the Federal Fostering Connections Act.
Ms. Joanne Moore asked what it would actually cost to fully implement Extended Foster Care to all categories. The youth responded that it is important for people to know that though there may be costs to extending the program, the savings will be greater. The youth reported that according to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, providing safe housing for youth aging out of care provides $1.35 return on tax dollar investment.
Youth from Everett discussed the problem that children and youth in foster care are often prevented from enjoying normal childhood experiences because of the lack of authority foster care parents have to provide timely and sound decisions on behalf of the children and youth under their care. The youth proposed implementing the “Prudent Parent Standard” for licensed caregivers in Washington State. With the Prudent Parent Standard, foster care parents could use their own judgment to decide if a youth could participate in appropriate activities that would otherwise require lengthier, more complex approval processes. The youth used the example that having to receive a social worker’s signature to go on field trips or travel with their sports teams restricts youth in care’s ability to participate in low-risk normal life activities. Further, the youth noted that the Prudent Parent Standard would free up time for social workers to focus on high-risk activities. Florida and California have passed Prudent Parent Standard legislation to address normalcy for youth in care which have resulted in clarifying and streamlining the permission processes for youth in care without a reduction in safety
Assistant Secretary Jenifer Strus stated that Children’s Administration (CA) has changed the travel restrictions for foster care youth so that hopefully that will help improve youths’ access to normal life activities. Justice Mary Fairhurst asked Assistant Secretary Strus if CA would be willing to work with the Attorney General to change the system so that youth in care would be able to travel out of state. Assistant Secretary Strus said that with well-stated tort liability language, they would be happy to readdress it.
Mr. Mike Canfield expressed that foster care parents will surely support Prudent Parent Standard legislation.
The youth from Spokane also discussed the importance of ensuring that youth in care have access to healthy normal youth experiences which youth are often prevented from participating in because of rules that exist to maintain the safety of the youth. The youth discussed that these normal life activities are critical in mitigating the negative impacts of trauma and displacement many youth face. The youth gave the examples of not being able to go on field trips, spend the night at friends’ houses, travel with sports teams, or travel out of state, due to delays in background checks and slow responses from social workers. The youth discussed that having these barriers to normal life activities have resulted in negative psychological affects, depression, low self-esteem, stigmatization, and often homelessness, because the youth run away. The youth recommended that the Commission’s Normalcy Workgroup be ongoing and should have an elevated purpose as a watchdog for agency policies and state laws that create unnecessary barriers to healthy experiences for children and youth in care. Further the youth discussed their support for the Prudent Parent Standard.
Ms. Tonia Morrison asked the youth to clarify if that the standard would give parental decision-making rights to whomever the youth were staying with, and what rights do the parents receive? The youth responded that the standard would replace the “middle man”, the social worker, which could allow for the parents and foster care parents to make decisions for low-risk activities together. Ms. Jeannie Kee emphasized how much the Prudent Parent Standard would help improve normalcy for the lives of children and youth in care.
Youth from the Seattle chapter presented on issues created because youth in care are given psychotropic medications six times more often than other youth and the need for alternative methods to medications. One youth spoke about his personal experience of being given high quantities of psychotropic medication, which made him extremely depressed. Once he turned 18, he made the decision to stop taking the medication and immediately felt better. Another youth presented on being forced to take ADHD medications twice a day and a nightly sleeping pill; he was not given any alternative option other than being highly medicated.
The youth offered two recommendations:
· Maintain State oversight tools, including mandatory medical review when youth are prescribed psychotropic medications and access to the Partnership Access Line (PAL).
· Expand the Foster Care Assessment Program (FCAP) to allow youth being prescribed psychotropic medications access to psycho-social therapy as a supplement or alternative.
Judge Kitty-Ann van Doorninck said that superior court judges are given a checklist to follow when dealing with a case of a youth on medication, to look out for overmedication, and that medical providers must sign an affidavit to provide the basis for any such medication.
Ms. Christina Parker, Tulalip Office of Civil Legal Aid, asked if the youth had had an advocate, and if not if they thought having an advocate would have made a difference in being given psychotropic medications. The youth responded that they did not and that, yes, they believe it would have made a difference.
Youth from Tacoma discussed the need for improving school continuity for youth in care. Despite laws and regulations which mandate that youth should maintain enrollment in their school of origin, there are rules that omit some youth from this protection, and many of the rules are not appropriately followed. This results in many youth being subjected to multiple school transfers when they enter care or are moved between foster care homes. The youth reported that school transfers poorly affect youths’ support networks. One youth discussed that when she had to move schools, her credits were not transferred, which put her a semester behind.
The youth recognized that laws do exist; however their experiences demonstrate that they are not effectively followed. The youth recommend that current laws and regulations concerning education continuity apply to all youth in foster care, ensuring that placements, both as they enter care and any ensuing placements, are with their original school district or that transportation is provided when placement within the district is not possible. One youth discussed how she took the bus every day from Lynden to Arlington to stay in her school.
Mr. Jim Bamberger said there is a clear difference between how the law is written and how it is implemented. Mr. Bamberger asked how many youth attended at least three or more different high schools when they were in school, and over 60 percent of the youth raised their hands. Mr. Bamberger asked if any youth had a lawyer; none of the youth had one. One youth asked who knew that lawyers were available to them, and only about 10 youth raised their hand. The youth responded that clearly this was a resource that the youth need to know more about.
Youth from Olympia presented on the need for youth aging out of care to have a support network. The youth recommended adding healthy relationships to the ILS quarterly check-in. As part of the healthy relationship check-in, the youth and someone else close to them would sign a “permanency pact”. A
“permanency pact” is a long-term agreement between a foster care youth and a family member, teacher, or friend establishing a person that the youth can depend on.
Justice Gonzales asked who selects the person who would serve this role in their life? The youth responded that the ILS facilitator and the youth would work together to choose this person, and then the facilitator would help build that relationship and the understanding of support. Mr. Bamberger said that healthy relationships are important and that it could be achieved at little to no cost; it is just about a protocol being created and implemented. A youth from another chapter asked, if it was just one person, what happens if something changes? The youth said that having one person is just to get the process started; ideally the youth would have multiple pacts with different people, allowing them to build a support system.
Justice Bridge thanked the youth for their presentations, and each Commission member took the opportunity to give their support and thanks to the youth, commenting on the youths’ hard work, effective presentations, and passion. Assistant Secretary Strus said that the Prudent Parent standard was an issue she thought CA would support, and she commented that several of the youth’s recommendations could be done without action from the Legislature which makes them more feasible. Justice Bridge said that the Commission will be following these presentations and topics at the next Commission meeting, and will be looking to take these recommendations and make them a reality.
The date for the next Commission meeting is Monday, September 16, 2013, at the Temple of Justice, Chief Justice’s Reception Room.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
Alyson McLean, CCFC Intern
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