The Washington State Legislative session is nearing a close this March. There have been many issues discussed that can impact Washington state, but two in particular have the ability to directly impact the lives of those young people living in foster care.
The first bill is SB 2126 which calls for all dependents of the State to have representation through a Guardian ad Litem or G.A.L. These positions are court appointed and their job is to represent and advocate the youth in care. Often times the child is too young or unaware of their rights to communicate what they need. This bill would require all youth from care to have a G.A.L present is all court proceedings. This could really shape the lives of so many children in Washington state. Hopefully, children being reunited with their biological families could happen more frequently, and hopefully children would spend less time bouncing around the system. I also hope this bill will keep children from being switched from home to home without cause.
This bill is being pushed through by Pierce County's own Senator Steve O'Ban. It is very exciting that one of our own residents is taking the health and safety of those in care seriously. Great to see this on the floor.
The second bill is HB 2335 which calls for youth in the foster care system at the age of 18 to have the option of extend foster care until age 21. This would need to be something that the young adult agrees to participate in, but it would provide a lot of benefits. Most students that I have worked with can't wait to get out of the foster care system at age 18. They are quick to start living on their own, and with good reason. The system can be cruel and often not working for the betterment of the young people it serves. This bill however, would provide some opportunities for those that choose to participate in it. It would extend medical care, provide case management, continue housing in a foster home and many other items. These resources could provide added stability while a young person is pursing college.
The biggest expense that I see for our students is housing. If housing was already provided through the state, then the extra funds a student may get from financial aid, Passport scholarship or Educational Training Voucher could be used for savings, extra school costs and other needs. It would definitely increase the success rate of the young people that would be pursuing school during the period of 18 to 21.
I hope that both of these bills get approved and that young people in foster care of all ages can be better served by the state to help them become successful adults.