Black and Indigenous youth, and other youth of color (BIPOC youth) are overrepresented in foster care, among those experiencing homelessness, and in our juvenile justice system due to historic and current systemic racism. We are actively committed to eliminating these disparities. We are also focused on addressing the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on young people. As always, our legislative agenda is guided and inspired by youth with lived experience.
Legal Representation for all Children and Youth in Foster Care
Research shows that high quality, well-trained attorneys for children help resolve cases more quickly, yet most children and youth in foster care are not represented by an attorney in the dependency process. We propose to phase in appointment of attorneys to all children and youth in foster care, starting with the counties with greatest need.
Transitions to Independence
Young people aging out of the foster care system during the COVID-19 pandemic are losing key supports – precisely when they need them the most. We propose implementing a new transition planning process for youth in Extended Foster Care, and the establishment of a system of support for youth who have already aged out to prevent transitions into homelessness.
Intergovernmental Task Force
Native American youth are overrepresented in our homelessness and child welfare systems. Yet many of the state’s existing support systems have gaps and barriers to access for Native American youth. We propose the creation of an intergovernmental task force to analyze the systems and policies of coordination between Tribal governments and state agencies that serve youth experiencing foster care and homelessness.
Preserve Critical Programs
The state faces a budget deficit and few tools to address the gap. Shelter, housing, child welfare, education, and other human services programs are crucial to supporting young people and their families through this recession and global health crisis. We call on the legislature to preserve the investments they’ve made in those areas and to consider new, equitable revenue options to prevent harmful cuts.
We support legislation and funding to improve access to the internet for youth experiencing homelessness and youth in the foster care system for everyday life from education to healthcare. This accessibility is especially essential for those in rural and underserved areas.
Reduce Youth Contact with Police
Young people experiencing homelessness and in the foster care system are more likely to have contact with the police. We support legislation that limits or eliminates police in schools to minimize student contact with the police and other efforts to increase accountability and transparency of law enforcement.
Improving Behavioral Health Access
Young people have been experiencing negative impacts to their mental health from the COVID-19 pandemic. We support the policy and funding recommendations of the Children & Youth Behavioral Health Work Group, including expanding a mobile crisis behavioral health response and peer supports to improve access to behavioral health services in the community.
We are proud coalition members of the Washington Coalition for Homeless Youth Advocacy (WACHYA), the Child Welfare Advocacy Coalition (CWAC), and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA)
Equitable Revenue Reform
The impact of the COVID pandemic has hit BIPOC communities and young people particularly hard, and we must focus on an equitable recovery. We support revenue options that do not disproportionately burden low-income people.
Sustain Lifesaving Services
We cannot afford to cut housing and homelessness services, child welfare programs, educational supports, and other crucial foundations during this recession. Programs at risk include:
- Anchor Community Initiative ($2.75m)
- Arlington Drive Project ($4m)
- Behavioral Health in Youth Shelters ($800k)