The state legislative session for 2021 opened today in Olympia, and the first order of business was setting up rules to run the remainder of the session virtually to reduce exposure to covid-19. Public ‘attendance’ and participation is still welcome – see instructions and help information.
In the leadup to the new session, DCYF held a public webinar last week explaining their requests for the supplemental budget now being considered by legislators, and shared the details in a powerpoint presentation available online with previous presentations (scroll down for ‘2021 Legislative Updates‘). Their list of priorities is protecting existing funds, improving the licensing process within DCYF and expanding therapeutic options in “Less Restrictive Community Settings”.
Advocacy organizations in foster care have also announced legislative goals for the session, frequently overlapping. A very incomplete summary of each announcement is below, with links to the full lists for each organization:
- Mockingbird legislative agenda includes a request to appoint attorneys for all youth in care (a reform long in the making – advocates have been working on improving access to attorneys for over a decade, and a bill to implement this failed in 2013), increasing support for youth aging out, investigation into service gaps and barriers for Native American youth, and maintaining existing funds.
- The Child Welfare Advocacy Coalition supports the same legislative requests as Mockingbird, and extends their goals to include keeping families together instead of going into foster care, and engaging families earlier than today. They also have a number of specific budget requests – restoring funding that was cut to Child Placing Agency rates and to support for kids aging out, allocating new money to maintaining existing unfunded services such as Arlington House, and requests for expanding existing services like Treehouse Graduation Success and Home Visiting.
- Treehouse legislative priorities for this year start with protecting existing funds and expanding their Graduation Success work along with other ways to support youth aging out of care, and also cover topics ranging from easier licensing for relative caregivers to increased access to behavioral therapy and substance abuse treatment. They are holding a webinar open to anyone who wants to learn more about what they are advocating for or how they engage in the legislative process:
Policy Spotlight & Virtual Happy Hour
Tuesday, January 12 from 6:00 – 7:00pm
Be a voice for youth in foster care. Come learn about our 2021 legislative agenda and ways you can make a difference. Register online and invite your friends and family to join us!