Children’s Campaign Fund 2018 Session Recap – how did our issues fare?

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Children’s Campaign Fund had an ambitious legislative agenda in 2018 and while there were substantive wins in both the budget and policy, and some incredible work was done by our 2016/17 endorsed candidates, it is clear that there is much work yet to be done to build a true “pro-kid majority” in the Washington State Legislature.

CCF broke the legislative agenda into 6 topics:

  • DCYF System Reforms such as adding a second network support administrator and extending the Family Assessment Response law to 120 days.
  • Supporting Families, Foster Parents, and Caregivers such as maintaining or expanding evidence-based home visiting and increasing out-of-home care options.
  • Preventing Youth Homelessness including expansion of the Youth Village Independent Living program and improved educational and diversion programs for youth in the juvenile justice system.
  • Offering and Supporting Early Learning and Child Care such as increasing child care subsidy rates and providing greater access to higher education opportunities for providers.
  • Passing Breakfast After the Bell to allow more students to be fed and ready to learn each and every school day
  • Allowing more students to access high-quality and engaging Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs) by funding these programs and supporting the Expanded Learning Opportunities Quality Initiative.
  • Using racial equity analysis to design policies that meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population.
  • Advocating for Washington state’s most vulnerable children, who face barriers to opportunity that can be physical, developmental, economic, cultural or regional.
  • Investing in programs like Early Learning that offer equal opportunity and reduce barriers to success.

 

Systems Reforms

After taking a landmark vote in 2017 to create the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families, legislators seem committed to making the needed budgetary investments, policy changes, and technical fixes. Almost 2.5 million dollars was included in the final supplemental budget to support the implementation of the new department, including funding for staff for the Oversight Board.  Additionally, the legislature took a step forward in terms of implementing another reform effort (originally passed in 2012) and included funding for a second Network Administrator to oversee family support and related services contracts.

The Family Assessment Response was extended to 120 days. While it was SB 6309 that made it to the Governor’s desk, the House version (2449) was prime sponsored by CCF-endorsed Representative Senn and co-sponsored by 3 other CCF-endorsed candidates.

Other key wins

  • CCF co-Founder Representative Ruth Kagi passed HB 2008 which should improve funding adequacy and stability around CPS reports and other foster care services, including support for parental visitation. DCYF is also directed to design a rate payment structure for intensive services (i.e. Behavioral Rehabilitative Services) based on actual costs. The DCYF Office of Innovation, Alignment and Accountability is directed to design a single tool to assess the needs of foster children, including the need for behavioral rehabilitation services.
  • The landmark work that CCF-endorsed Representative Tana Senn is doing with the Children’s Mental Health taskforce is extended until December 30, 2020. (HB 2779)
  • CCF-endorsed Representative John Lovick streamlined the process of dependency petitions by eliminating the need for a probation officer to be involved if the petition is filed by DSHS. (HB 1790)

Unfortunately, Representative Orwall and Senator Darneille’s bill to establish a statewide system response to help families and youth in crisis and prevent youth homelessness, also known as FINS, was not successful (HB 2970/SB6467). The Family in Need of Services civil court petition process would be established, replacing the At-Risk Youth and Child In Need of Services petition processes. The FINS response would include assessment, case management, and interventions to preserve, strengthen, and reconcile families experiencing crisis; residential placement and therapeutic support for youth in need of basic assistance; services and interventions for the parent if issues prevent safe reconciliation of the family; and ongoing assessment of program effectiveness.  There was, however, funding in the budget for a Families in Crisis study of the public system response for families and youth in crisis who are seeking services to address the conflict.  The study will be done by DCYF in collaboration with the Dept. of Commerce, Administrative Office of the Courts and local jurisdictions.

 

Supporting Families, Foster Parents, and Caregivers

There is widespread agreement that everyone involved in the foster system needs more support than currently exists. There is a shortage of foster parents, existing foster parents often feel that they are viewed with suspicion rather than respect, there is a lack of stability in out-of-home placements for children, and there is evidence-based support and education that would benefit biological parents during their visits with their kids in care.

While we need a system to address the effects of abuse and neglect, the idea is prevention. We know that providing support to high-risk families in the form of evidence-based home-visiting programs is effective. According the Washington State Department of Early Learning, we are currently reaching only 10% of eligible families. The final supplemental budget included $2.3 million to expand the home visiting program. In addition, money was provided to expand efforts to find relatives who can take children who need to be removed from the home.

When the child has complex, high-level service needs, specialized foster care or other out of home placements may be necessary, and/or intensive wrap-around services to keep the child in the home. Right now there are multiple tools used to determine if Behavioral Rehabilitation Services are needed and there is a lack of stability in the availability of these resources. Approximately $6.3 million was included in the final budget to stabilize availability and to develop a single, validated tool that can be used across the system.

Other key wins

  • HB 2256, prime sponsored by Representative Paul Graves (R-5), makes it easier for prospective foster parents by requiring that all components of the foster parent preservice training be made available online.
  • HB 2785, prime sponsored by Representative Tom Dent (R-), addresses the relationship between DCYF and foster parents by providing prospective foster parents a list of rights and responsibilities both before they are licensed and at every renewal.

SB 6453, prime sponsored by Senator Curtis King (R-14), strives to keep families together by allowing DSHS to purchase legal representation for kinship caregivers of children who are at risk of being dependent, or who are dependent, to establish or modify a parenting plan or secure orders establishing other relevant civil legal relationships, when it is necessary for the child’s safety, permanence, or well-being. It will generally be used when there is a need for a noncustodial or third party custody agreement that will take the children out of the dependency system. Representative Eric Pettigrew (D-37) sponsored the companion house bill (2663).

 

Preventing youth homelessness, including improved educational and diversion programs for youth in the juvenile justice system

While in foster care, the Washington state is technically a child’s parent. Historically, at age 18 the child aged out of foster care and lost that parent. There may have been a time when an 18-year-old could successfully manage out on their own, but that time is not now. Washington has been a model in extended foster care services, including supervised housing, medical care, and case management. SB 6222, prime sponsored by Senator Reuven Carlyle (D-36), allows dependent youth, and not solely youth literally in foster care, to be eligible for Extended Foster Care (such as a youth who was in foster care upon entering the juvenile justice system but at age 18 is being discharged from a juvenile rehabilitation institution and not literally foster care – although the are still a dependent of the state). The bill also allows a youth to enroll and re-enroll in Extended Foster Care as needed until age 21.  Representative Jake Fey (D-27) introduced the house companion (HB 2330). Representative Tana Senn (D-41, CCF endorsed 2016) passed HB 2530 which further improves support for kids transitioning out of foster care, at any age. Foster children are enrolled in the Apple Health Core Connections program. Under HB 2530, kids who have been reunited with their families may continue in the same health system for up to 12 months. Apple Health Core Connections has been granted an additional three months to integrate all mental health services into their plan.

One key loss this session was the failure of the legislature to expand the Youth Villages pilot and evaluate the effectiveness of their independent living program for youth transitioning out of foster care or other care arrangement.

SB 6560, introduced by Senator Jeannie Darneille (D-27), ensures that by 12/31/2020 no youth will be discharged from a public system, e.g. child welfare or juvenile justice, into homelessness.

Data is a crucial part of treating/preventing homelessness in general. To collect that data, Washington created the Homeless Information Management System. Inclusion in that system requires obtaining informed consent from the individual, which minors cannot legally give. So there is a huge piece of data missing from the youth homelessness picture. Representative Vandana Slatter’s (D-48) HB 1630 fixes this by explicitly allowing any unaccompanied youth 13 years of age to give consent.

The picture with respect to youth in the juvenile justice system was far bleaker. Bills that sought to increase diversion (HB 1280, Kagi D-32), prohibit detention for situation such as truancy (5596, Darneille), and modernize legislation around “sexting” to make sure that youthful stupidity doesn’t turn into a life sentence all failed to make it through the process (SB 6566, Dhingra D-45). Finally, Representative Roger Goodman’s (D-45, CCF endorsed 2016) landmark legislation to allow juveniles convicted in adult court to be placed in juvenile facilities and held there until 25 failed to make it out of the House (2907, 1743/5613 (Darneille)).

Representative Darneille did pass SB 6550 to increase prosecutorial discretion around juvenile diversion by limiting the circumstances where the prosecutor may not divert. Senator Kuderer (D-48) passed SB 6160, which transfers certain crimes from adult court to juvenile court when committed by a 16 or 17 year old and extends the age of confinement in juvenile court to age 25. Youth coming out of JRA facilities often don’t have driver’s licenses, which represents a significant barrier to employment, housing, and other services. Language was included with Senator Darneille’s homeless discharge bill requiring the Department of Licensing to issue a Washington State “identicard” at cost of production to any individual coming out of a JRA facility within 30 days.

 

Offering and Supporting Early Learning and Child Care providers

HB 2367, introduced by Representative Kristine Reeves (D-30), establishes a Child Care Collaborative Task Force to develop policies and recommendations to incentivize employer-supported child care and improve child care access and affordability for employees.

Numerous bills/budget provisos seeking to increase child care rates and create a curriculum around how to run a child care business were either unsuccessful or failed to be introduced at all. Representative Reeves’ HB 2396, establishing the working families’ child care access and affordability

through regional employers passed the House (84-13), but failed to make it out of Senate Ways & Means. This bill would have required DCYF to provide guidance for the provision of employer-supported child care, established a Child Care Workforce Conditional Scholarship and Loan Repayment program, and provided a business and occupation or public utility tax credit for businesses contributing to employee dependent care flexible spending accounts.

 

Passing Breakfast After the Bell

It passed!

 

Funding Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs) and supporting the Expanded Learning Opportunities Quality Initiative

$750,000 was included in the final budget for ELOs in the 2018-2019 school year.

 

Using racial equity analysis to design policies

Both Representative Kagi’s bill to form a workgroup to improve educational outcomes for foster youth, including closing race gap (HB 2877) and Senator Carlyle’s companion bill (SB 6223) failed to move. However, the intent of the legislation, and most of the language in the bills, was included as a proviso to the budget.

 

Advocating for Washington state’s most vulnerable children, who face barriers to opportunity that can be physical, developmental, economic, cultural or regional.

Numerous studies have shown that upward social/economic mobility is far more difficult that it has been in the past. Representative David Sawyer (D-29) passed HB 1482 in which the legislature distinguishes intergenerational poverty from situation poverty and creates a task force to develop specific strategies to help families overcome intergenerational poverty.

Parents with children in crisis and new moms in crisis often turn to their pediatricians and primary care providers for help. These providers are not experts in behavioral health, nor are appropriate services easy to find. In order to provide timely relief to this problem, Senator Sharon Brown (R-8) passed legislation expanding the Partnership Access Line to include pregnant and newly post-partum moms and to include referrals to available in-network providers, coordinate contact with those providers, and follow-up to determine if those referrals were sufficient.

Despite getting it through the House (95-3), Representative Christine Kilduff (D-28) was unable to expand the Passport to College program to children who have been enrolled in the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program, a tribal foster care program, children who are in foster care under the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.  SB6274 (Sen. Ranker) did pass, however, and focuses on expanding the Passport to College program, as well as creating the Passport to Apprenticeship Opportunities program, for both foster and homeless youth.

Suspending and/or expelling very young children doesn’t seem to positively impact their behavior but do seem to sabotage their learning at a very fundamental level. Senator Andy Billig (D-3, CCF endorsed 2016) sought to this practice with SB 5155. While it passed the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12, it failed to progress further. Although the issue was addressed, see HB 2861 below.

 

Investing in programs like Early Learning that offer equal opportunity and reduce barriers to success.

Despite one significant loss related to raising the levy lid specifically to fund early learning (SB 6458/HB 2898 Billig/Kagi, both CCF-endorsees), the issue of investing in early learning programs had a good 2018 session, led by CCF-endorsed candidates.

Representative Ortiz-Self passed a bill which establishes an advisory group to develop a five-year strategy to expand training in trauma-informed child care and reduce early learning expulsions (HB 2861). Senator Billig also passed SB 6257, consolidating Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) services and funding under DCYF and develop an ongoing funding model for these services, which will be considered maintenance level funding in future appropriations bills.

Senator Christine Rolfes (D-23) expanded eligibility for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) (SB 6419) and Senator Billig allowed more entities, including school districts, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit organizations, to fund ECEAP in order to further expand access to and eligibility for ECEAP. Included in SB 6362 was language to change the High Poverty Learning Assistance Program eligibility model from a year by year assessment to a three year rolling average of the percentage of kids on free and reduced lunch. While this may not increase spending, it should provide more stability for those schools that hover right around the 50% eligibility mark. It’s worth noting that individual bills promoting the same concept were introduced by CCF-endorsed candidate Maureen Walsh (R-16) and Representative Bill Jenkin (R-16).

Lastly, full-time college students with young kids are now able to enroll them in Working Connections Childcare programs without meeting the work requirement. However, bills eliminating barriers that prevent teen parents in K-12 from accessing Working Connections Child Care failed to pass (HB 2670 Kilduff).