House unanimously approves Caldier bill to provide better support to students in out-of-home care

In an evening floor session Thursday, the House unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Michelle Caldier to provide better agency and school district support for students in out-of-home care.

To ensure educational continuity, state law dictates that whenever in the best interest of a child, children in out-of-home care must remain enrolled in the school they were attending at the time they entered out-of-home care. However, in instances in which it is determined a child should move from one school to another, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is encouraged to follow protocols — created by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction — to communicate, coordinate and collaborate with school districts to facilitate a smooth process.

However, Caldier says DSHS has too often ignored the recommended protocols, which has resulted in children being moved at the wrong time for their personal and educational growth. Her bill, House Bill 2684, would require the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to follow these protocols when making best interest determinations for children in out-of-home care.

“As a former foster child, it's impossible to overstate the importance of restoring stability in a child's life once they have been placed in out-of-home care,” said Caldier, R-Port Orchard. “Unfortunately, the state's largest agency has often failed to provide stability for these children, which has made many of their situations worse. It is my hope this bill will mark a turnaround in how we serve them going forward. I have no doubt that if we become more thoughtful and less reactionary, we can play an instrumental role in helping these children succeed.”

Under House Bill 2684, the DCYF would be required to coordinate with the relevant school districts before moving a child from one school to another. The agency would also be required to: 1) consider student-centered factors in order to make a well-informed best interest determination, and 2) gather meaningful input from the relevant parties in a students' life when deciding which school they should attend during their time in out-of-home care.

Finally, the bill stipulates each school district would be required to designate a foster care liaison to facilitate district compliance with state and federal laws related to students in out-of-home care, while also collaborating with the DCYF.

House Bill 2684 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov