The number of times that state child-welfare workers housed foster children overnight in government offices has exploded, from six times in the last reporting period to 284. Meanwhile, the state hit a new record for combined hotel and office stays by foster kids, many of them with extreme behaviors.
In 2018, Washington voters passed an initiative that made it easier to prosecute police officers who shoot civilians, required independent investigations of police use of force and mandated a new de-escalation training regimen. At the time of its passing, the initiative was considered incredibly progressive—but activists today say existing reforms have done little to slow killings by police, and are now calling instead for foundational change, including steep cuts to police departments’ budgets and diverting savings to better social services such as crisis-intervention units.
With COVID-19 spreading into Washington’s system of foster care group homes, operators of the facilities say they are in a precarious position and fear “retaliation” by state child-welfare officials who ended state funding to a home that turned away foster youth sickened by the coronavirus.
As Seattle became the decade’s fastest-growing big city in America, residents have seen more tree canopy disappear to make room for new apartments and houses to accommodate the growing population. Now, activists and residents are pushing for the Seattle City Council to create a new tree ordinance that will protect more trees. But even as the movement gains momentum and there’s increasing evidence that trees help combat climate change and water pollution, the Seattle City Council is weighing these efforts against an ever-increasing need for housing.
Undocumented workers, especially in the transportation, construction and service industries, have been hit hard by the coronavirus but have been left out of stimulus efforts. This is despite paying more than $300 million in state and local taxes in Washington State, and many of their employers contributing to the unemployment relief fund. While some cities and states have launched their own relief efforts, there has been pushback on social media and Fox News commentators have demanded to know why undocumented workers should receive taxpayer help.
InvestigateWest is seeking out survivors of wildfires who are willing to take a 15-minute survey on how they are faring now. The survey asks: Are you still trying to rebuild your life after a natural disaster? How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your efforts?
Young adults in the foster care system, who are disproportionately people of color, were already at risk for a litany of serious problems even before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, as many struggle to pay for rent and groceries, advocates are calling for Washington state to stop kicking young people out of Extended Foster Care when they turn 21. In response, the state says it is working on a new housing stability program. In the meantime, some young adults are seeking help from charitable groups.
With nearly triple the usual number of wildfires this year, Washington and Oregon are set to have the worst summer fire forecasts in the nation. And it’s not the only one. As a result of COVID-19, volunteer firefighting numbers are down and those who did sign up face increased vulnerability to the virus. The pandemic has curtailed preventative measures, leading agencies across the country to plan for fast, low-headcount efforts to fight fires.
All across the country, there’s been an upsurge in calls and texts to helplines as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As people adapt to the new normal, they are reaching out to helplines with questions and concerns about employment, food banks, mental health and domestic violence. While efforts are being made to address these concerns and deal with the mental health toll that the pandemic is causing, some experts worry that not enough is being done.