Corry introduces three bills aimed at improving the relative placement process for foster children

Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima, has sponsored a trio of bills seeking to reform the relative placement process for foster children.

The 14th District lawmaker notes that delays in finding suitable relative placement can be long. Often after relatives are found, the children have had very little or even no contact with them previously.

“Here's a common scenario: a foster child is in out-of-home care for a year or two. When it looks like Mom or Dad can't take the child back, the courts move to termination,” said Corry. “After more than two years of living with a stable foster family, if they suddenly find a relative who can adopt, the child may have to move in with someone they have never met before. Removing them that late in the case is hard on the children.”

Foster parents provide a temporary home for children who, for one reason or another, have been removed by the court from the care of their birth parents. These children are temporarily in the custody of the state through the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). When the birth family is unable to complete restoration services, the court may permanently revoke their parental rights. In those cases, a search for a birth relative to adopt the child occurs.

House Bill 2026 would require the search for relatives to occur at the beginning of the time the child is placed in out-of-home care. DCYF would need to find and identify possible relative placement options no later than 6 months after the child's placement in out-of-home care. If a relative is found, the placement of the child would be required within one year.

“My bills don't prevent relative placement, they simply put earlier deadlines in the process so foster children are not needlessly traumatized. These children have been through enough. It's not unreasonable to expect a relative search to be completed within six months,” continued Corry.

Corry's bill would also allow the courts to consider not placing the child with a relative if it's in their best interest to remain with a suitable, stable long-term caregiver.

In addition, House Bill 2027 would further expand the definition “suitable person” to include a foster parent or caregiver who has cared for a child under three years old for nine months or more.

“We should allow foster parents to be considered more in the process of these placements. This helps to keep the focus on doing what's best overall for the child,” noted Corry.

House Bill 2028 would require DCYF to have a mental health professional conduct a “bonding and best interest assessment” before the second permanency placement hearing takes place, generally about a year into the case.

The assessment would need to include an evaluation of the child's behavior and interactions with their current caregiver or foster family. The information would then be used by the courts to determine the long-term impact on the child if the placement is changed.

“We need to evaluate the risk for the child if the bond with their foster family is severed. Doing this before the second termination hearing helps prevent unnecessary harm to these children. This way the court has all the information they need to make the best long-term choice for each child.”

The 105-day legislative session is scheduled to adjourn April 28, 2019.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov