The coronavirus pandemic has translated into severe unhappiness for parents of children taken into Washington State’s foster-care system who no longer are able in most cases to have in-person contact with their children. Court rulings from around the state are in conflict, and parents who lost their kids to the foster care system — most because they were simply too poor to adequately care for them — are bringing legal challenges to Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency stay-at-home proclamation’s effect on their ability to have regular in-person visits.
With Washington forcing a record number of traumatized foster youth into overnight hotel stays that further destabilize them — at a tremendous cost to taxpayers — lawmakers in Olympia have sent the governor a budget that seems unlikely to solve the problem. Legislators last week approved nearly $16 million in new funding to try to stem the hotel-overnight crisis. The new money has the potential to restore 26 spots for foster youth lost earlier this year at one Seattle facility, Ryther, and create perhaps more than 70 new ones. Yet, it might not be enough to fix the system: The department racked up more than 1,500 hotel overnights for almost 300 foster children in the most recent year measured, ending in August 2019. Ryther, a children’s mental-health agency, offers an example of how lawmakers’ efforts may come up short.
Record numbers of foster children are sleeping in hotels and state offices as Washington State struggles to find beds for youth with mental health and behavioral challenges. Having previously sent some of the hardest-to-place foster youths to out-of-state homes, the state is now working to bring them back, but it’s facing a lack of qualified in-state facilities in part due to low payment rates by the state.
In the midst of the ongoing crisis in the Washington foster care system, foster parents have few options when faced with what they consider retaliation. Officials from the Department Children, Youth and Families, Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds, Republican Senator Steve O’Ban and Democractic Rep. Tana Senn weigh in on whether foster parents should be afforded whistleblower protections.
Inmates at Washington’s Monroe Correctional Complex who are alumni of the foster-care system convened a conference that brought together officials of the Department of Children, Youth and Families, Treehouse, a retired King County Juvenile Court Judge and members of the community to talk about ending the foster-care-to-prison pipeline.
After a report by a government-appointed watchdog group found Washington foster kids sent to a group home in Iowa were mistreated, InvestigateWest documents how dozens of other Washington foster kids remain at group homes in South Carolina, Wyoming and Michigan that also appear to have mistreated children, according to reports from oversight agencies in other states.
In what may prove a watershed moment for the state’s foster care system, Washington’s Supreme Court found the state has a broad duty to protect foster children from abuse. The decision in favor of five young women who were sexually, physically and psychologically abused provides a stronger legal footing for other foster children suing the state, which already has paid out hundreds of millions of dollar in similar abuse cases.
Youths entrusted to Washington’s foster-care system have endured “abusive” practices in a jail-like Iowa group home that inappropriately used painful physical restraints on children, according to a new report by a government-designated watchdog group.
The report, released today by the nonprofit Disability Rights Washington, documents numerous instances in which youths between the ages of 14 and 16 were held down by three or more workers. One child’s glasses were broken when staffers pushed the youth to the floor, and another was restrained for 45 minutes.
Abused and neglected kids in Washington State’s overwhelmed foster care system were housed at hotels and state offices at a higher rate than ever over the last year, new figures show — a practice that costs taxpayers millions. The state reports spending more than $2,100 nightly for each hotel stay, on average.
Kinship caregivers such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and close family care for an estimated 43,000 children in Washington State. Without kinship care, these children would enter the already stretched thin Washington state foster care system. But although these kinship caregivers tend to be older, poorer and in worse health than foster parent counterparts, they receive comparatively little financial support from the state.