MYNORTHWEST POLITICS

Wash. foster children could get boost from legislature

Feb 29, 2024, 12:51 PM

Foster teens...

People 18-21 stand the most to gain by Wash. state legislation. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Washington Senate legislation recently approved by the House aims to enhance foster care support for young people aged 18 to 21.

“Young people have expressed their need for continued support as they transition to living on their own,” Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Auburn, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “Extending support through these few critical years can make or break the path to independence for a vulnerable portion of our youth.”

Wilson emphasized the importance of continued assistance during this critical transition period. Wilson highlighted that extended foster care addresses immediate needs, helps prevent homelessness, reduces reliance on public services, and breaks the cycle of generational poverty.

The legislation, known as SB 5908 (a PDF of the bill can be viewed here), has several key provisions:

  1. Information provision: The Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families will provide essential information to youths aging out of traditional foster care. This includes details about benefits, eligibility criteria, and incentives.
  2. Opt-out system: The program’s current opt-in requirement will be transformed into an opt-out system. This change ensures that eligible youth automatically receive extended foster care support unless they choose to opt out.
  3. Incentive program: SB 5908 establishes an incentive program to encourage education and employment among foster care youth.

Rep. Julio Cortes, D-Everett, who sponsored companion legislation (HB 2218) in the House, emphasized the positive impact of voluntary extended foster care.

“We can remove barriers and offer essential support to youth who urgently need it,” she said in a statement.

Other legislative news: Strippers Bill of Rights moves forward

There is evidence that supporting at-risk youth reduces crime and contributes to community well-being.

“The legislature finds that the Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s benefit-cost analysis found that the extended foster care program produces $3.95 of lifetime benefits for each $1 invested,” the bill notes.

Before the bill can become law, the House and Senate must reconcile the differences between their amended versions of SB 5908.

Bill Kaczaraba is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here. Follow Bill on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here.

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