SENATE BILL REPORT
This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.
As of February 14, 2013
Title: An act relating to extended foster care services.
Brief Description: Concerning extended foster care services.
Sponsors: Senators Murray, Tom, Kohl-Welles, Darneille, Hobbs, Harper and Frockt.
Committee Activity: Human Services & Corrections: 2/11/13.
SENATE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN SERVICES & CORRECTIONS
Staff: Joan Miller (786-7784)
Background: In October 2008, Congress passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. One of the key provisions of the legislation allowed states to use foster care funds to provide extended foster care services to youth between the ages of 18 and 21 who engaged in certain qualifying activities.
In 2011, the Legislature established extended foster care services, which are defined as residential and other support services that the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is authorized to provide to foster children who have an open dependency case when they turn age 18. A youth was eligible for extended foster care services until age 21 only while participating in a secondary education program or a secondary education equivalency program. In 2012, the Legislature expanded the eligibility to include youth who were enrolled, or had applied for and demonstrated intent to enroll, in a postsecondary academic or postsecondary vocational program.
When a youth in foster care who has an open dependency case reaches age 18, the youth's parent or guardian is dismissed from the dependency proceeding. After the parent or guardian's dismissal, the dependency court must postpone for six months the dismissal of the dependency case in its entirety if the youth is enrolled in a secondary or postsecondary education program or a secondary or postsecondary education equivalency program. This six-month postponement allows the youth time to request extended foster care services after turning 18. At the end of the six-month period, if the youth has not requested extended foster care services, the court must dismiss the dependency. The court may also dismiss the dependency if, during the six-month period, the youth is no longer eligible for extended foster care services. DSHS is relieved of any supervisory duties over a youth who is age 18 but has not requested extended foster care services. While a youth receives extended foster care services, the youth is under the care and placement authority of DSHS.
Summary of Bill: When a youth with an open dependency case turns 18, the court must dismiss the case in its entirety. At any time after turning 18, the youth may request extended foster care services from DSHS. Youths who are in a dependency guardianship and youths whose dependency cases have been dismissed before reaching age 18 also may request extended foster care services. Extended foster care services include the following: (1) placement in licensed, relative, or otherwise approved care; (2) supervised independent living settings; (3) assistance in meeting basic needs; (4) independent living services; (5) medical assistance; and (6) counseling or treatment.
An eligible youth must be: (1) enrolled in a secondary education program or a secondary education equivalency program; (2) enrolled and participating in a postsecondary academic or postsecondary program; (3) participating in a program or activity designed to promote employment or remove barriers to employment; (4) engaged in employment for 80 hours or more per month; or (5) incapable of engaging in any of these activities due to a documented medical condition. If the youth is at least 17 and one half years old at the time of the permanency hearing, the youth must be provided written documentation regarding the availability of extended foster care services and detailed instructions about how to access those services after they reach age 18.
Upon a request by the youth for extended foster care services and the completion of a voluntary re-entry agreement, DSHS must file a petition with the court requesting that the youth receive extended foster care services. Once the petition is filed, and the court has determined that the youth is eligible for extended foster care services, the court must establish a dependency case for the youth who is now over age 18. The court must also appoint counsel to represent the youth in any dependency proceedings.
If the youth requests extended foster care services, and DSHS declines to provide such services, DSHS must document its reasons for declining to provide extended foster care services and file such documentation with the court. The court must then set a hearing date to determine whether the youth is eligible for extended foster care services.
Fiscal Note: Available.
Committee/Commission/Task Force Created: No.
Effective Date: Ninety days after adjournment of session in which bill is passed.
Staff Summary of Public Testimony: PRO: Homeless youth are often in the age group of 18 to 21, and we need the ability to better transition them into adulthood. We need to be concerned about foster children who age out of the system and are left to fend for themselves. They are at a greater risk of becoming homeless or exposed to drugs, crime, and abuse. Foster children need an opportunity to be successful, and this bill would help young adults who are trying to pursue an education but are not quite there yet. There is an impact on all of us when we do not support these kids. Foster kids have a hard time competing in the marketplace and providing the basics, like safe housing, while they mature is necessary. How many of our 18-year-olds are ready to support themselves? The investment we make now will pay dividends in the future by producing better outcomes for these youth. With all of the unfunded initiatives that have passed, the Legislature should prioritize how money is spent, and this bill should receive the highest priority. If this bill was in place when Chris Bauer aged out of care, he would have been eligible for extended foster care services based on a medical condition that hindered his employment opportunities. Instead, he ended up homeless. By adding the additional three groups to the eligibility criteria, youth and young adults would have the support they need to thrive. Mandy Urwiler was eligible for extended foster care services while she was pursuing her GED and applying to college. But because she cannot afford the necessary prerequisites while supporting her child, she has had to push back her college entrance date. Extended foster care services would help her begin her college education sooner.
OTHER: The Office of the Family and Children's Ombudsman generally remains neutral, but it supports the intent of this bill. This bill would fill a gap in existing law by providing extended foster care services to our most vulnerable youth who have medical conditions or other barriers to receiving employment. It will help address the dismal outcomes for foster youth who age out of the system, including homelessness, incarceration, unemployment, and drug abuse. By providing youth with basic support, we will save money. We help our own children as they transition into adulthood, and the state should provide the same level of support for children under its care. DSHS is supportive of helping youth who age out of care and is working with stakeholders to bring down the fiscal impact.
Persons Testifying: PRO: Senator Ed Murray, prime sponsor; Stephen Huard, citizen; Jeanine Livingston, WA Federation of State Employees; Yossi Banai, Mandy Urwiler, Jom Brumback, Chris Bauer, Mockingbird Society.
OTHER: Patrick Dowd, Office of the Family & Children's Ombudsman; David Del Villar Fox (on behalf of Jennifer Strus), DSHS.