We are thrilled to report that several of Mockingbird's priority issues passed – with bipartisan support -- during the 2015 state legislative session and received funding in the final budget.
Check out our 2015 session update to learn more! One of the most exciting outcomes is that the Legislature passed a bill (SSB 5740) allowing the fifth and final category of youth to be eligible for Extended Foster Care (EFC)! Starting July 1, 2016, young people who are unable to work, go to school, or participate in a program designed to reduce their barriers to employment due to a documented medical condition will be able to access EFC support.
We know that young people who age out at age 18 face significant challenges as they struggle to maintain stability after experiencing the trauma that can come with being in foster care. Extending foster care to age 21 provides young adults with three more years of support and safe housing to help them avoid homelessness and transition to successful adulthood.
Passage of this bill completes Mockingbird's multi-year effort to implement EFC in Washington state, as provided by the federal Fostering Connections Act. We couldn't have done this without the support of many key policymakers and community partners over the years. But most importantly, we thank the countless youth and young adults that have experienced foster care who courageously shared their stories and raised their voices to bring about these reforms.
Here's a look back at EFC's advocacy history:
In 2011, Mockingbird successfully advocated the Legislature to pass the first EFC bill (HB 1128), allowing youth to stay in care until 21 while working on their high school diploma or GED.
In 2012, we asked the Legislature to expand EFC to allow youth who were in college or an accredited vocational program to continue to stay in foster care. The Legislature passed HB 2592 and provided funding to expand the EFC program.
In 2013, Mockingbird again won an expansion of the EFC program (SB 5405) that allowed young people participating in programs designed to break down barriers to employment to remain in care until 21.
In 2014, Mockingbird advocated to allow young adults to stay in EFC if they engaged in employment for 80 hours or more per month. The Legislature passed HB 2335, which became effective March 1, 2015.
You can learn more about EFC by checking out our one-pager.
Thank you for your support of this issue in our nearly decade-long journey to ensure that young people can access foster care services beyond age 18.
If you want to stay updated on Mockingbird's advocacy efforts, please sign up for our advocacy alerts. To find out how you can get involved with a chapter of the Mockingbird Youth Network in your area you can reach out to our Youth Programs team.