System reform iconSystem Reform

Shana Burgess

Evaluate and create more oversight of group care in Washington

everett

RECOMMENDATION

The Everett chapter is asking that a formal evaluation on group care in Washington state be completed to better understand the experiences and outcomes of foster youth in these settings. The last evaluation of group care was conducted in 2007, and there is limited information available about foster youth in group care and how they have been doing since then. The Everett chapter would like an evaluation to focus on the quality of group care, lengths of stay, outcomes and permanency rates, demographics, and services provided to foster youth while in group care. The chapter believes that formally evaluating group care in Washington will not only provide the information our state needs to improve the experiences of youth in care, but will also continue to make Washington a national leader on this child welfare issue.

QUOTE

Leadership Team (Jil Nance, Eden Hottman- Nance, Melisa Suljic)
“We want to see an evaluation of group care in Washington state because it can be easy to forget about foster kids in group care. But these youth are just as important and a key part of the foster care culture and foster care system. Everett has a strong community of youth in group care and we want to get information about how they are doing with the goal of improving the system and their experiences.”

Create a Host Home-inspired community for youth in Extended Foster Care (EFC)

olympia

RECOMMENDATION

The EFC program has produced fantastic results for foster youth and alumni in Washington state. However, the success youth experience in Supervised Independent Living Placements (SILPs) varies depending on whether the situation is safe and whether the SILP is a good match with the youth’s needs. The Olympia chapter would like to increase SILP options for EFC youth in order to ensure a successful transition to adulthood. The Host Home model — which typically involves volunteers in the community offering a spare bedroom in their home to a young person in need of housing — gives young people the support they need, while also allowing them to have more of a role in choosing who they live with. Additionally, it provides youth the confidence that the person with whom they are living is safe, appropriate, and trustworthy. Creating a Host Home matching program for young people in EFC would build a more robust pool of potential placements and incorporate young people’s desire for independence with the need to be in a safe and stable placement.

QUOTE

Chapter leader, Mikhail Stewart: “The Olympia chapter is aiming at combining host home programs with EFC, allowing youth more housing options between the ages of 18-21. This is important to the general foster youth population, and also minority groups, such as the LGBTQA+ identifiers. Having more housing options that aim at matching youth and hosts will prevent future homeless youth.”

Increase foster youth access to the College Bound Scholarship

seattle

RECOMMENDATION

The Seattle chapter wants to expand the College Bound Scholarship eligibility for youth in foster care and make financial support for higher education more accessible and less confusing to navigate. The Seattle chapter proposes that:

  • Foster youth who earn their GEDs become eligible for the College Bound Scholarship (currently youth must graduate with their high school diploma to be eligible).
  • Foster youth have a longer period of time to begin accessing the scholarship and a longer window to use the scholarship. Currently, young people must begin accessing the scholarship one year after graduation, and must use the scholarship within five years.
  • Youth in tribal and international foster care be eligible for the scholarship.
  • Eligibility for the scholarship be aligned with the promises made in the Youth Opportunity and YEAR Acts, which allow many juvenile records to be sealed so that young people can obtain housing and employment and access education. Currently, the scholarship excludes young people if they have a felony on their juvenile record, even if these records are eligible to be sealed.

The chapter wants to see more youth in foster care successfully complete high school and attend higher education. Better education outcomes for foster youth means fewer youth will struggle with unemployment, homelessness, and a lack of independence. Education creates opportunities for our future!

QUOTE

Chapter leader James Sheard: “We chose the topic of funding for higher education because a lot of young people in the foster care system are dying to pursue higher education because it can help them get the knowledge they need to get jobs now. It also helps them be more independent.”

Require LGBTQ sensitivity training for foster parents and social workers

spokane

RECOMMENDATION

When a youth enters foster care they are often placed wherever there is an available foster home, which may or may not be a good match between the caregiver and the youth. Given that many foster youth identify as LGBTQ, the Spokane chapter feels it is important for foster parents and social workers to have a better understanding of how best to support those young people. Currently, it is optional for foster parents and social workers to attend sensitivity trainings to learn how to work with and support LGBTQ youth. It is important to feel accepted and understood for who you are! By making LGBTQ sensitivity trainings mandatory and not optional, youth can be assured that their needs are met and that they are placed in homes that are better equipped to welcome and care for them.

QUOTE

Spokane chapter member Lovella Fulton:“The Spokane chapter collectively chose the topic of mandatory sensitivity training for foster parents and social workers about LGBTQ youth. Our goal for this sensitivity training is that the foster parents can give a safe home and give support to the youth who identify as LGBTQ.”

Implement the Mockingbird Family Model in Pierce County

tacoma

RECOMMENDATION

Foster youth want to be safe in their homes and in their communities, and the Tacoma chapter sees the Mockingbird Family Model (MFM) as the ultimate source of safety and happiness for foster youth. Through the MFM, which would place youth in constellations of 6-10 foster homes connected by a central Hub Home, the chapter believes that Pierce County foster youth would be checked on more frequently and would be able to rely on the Hub Home provider whenever respite care, crisis care, or other support was needed. The MFM also benefits foster parents, as they have a 97% satisfaction rate when they are part of an MFM constellation. The MFM has already proven itself a successful model in other regions in Washington, as well as in other states and countries. At this point, the implementation process has already started for the MFM in Pierce County with private foster care providers, and the Tacoma chapter would like to engage with the Children’s Administration to implement the model as quickly as possible.

QUOTE

Chapter leader Essence Harris: “Our chapter chose the MFM as our topic because it brings both foster parents and foster youth together. This is important to me because I am a strong believer that unity and safety play a large role in independent success.”

Increase access to an attorney for children and youth in foster care

yakima

RECOMMENDATION

Currently, Washington state is rated as one of the worst states when it comes to providing legal counsel to children and youth in foster care. In addition, the way counsel is assigned is not consistent across the state and has been referred to as “justice by geography.” While the Yakima chapterbelieves that all foster children and youth should automatically be provided an attorney when they enter foster care, the chapter also realizes the proposal is a difficult one to fund. At this time, the goal of the Yakima chapter is to require the automatic appointment of an attorney to all foster children age 12 and older.

QUOTE

The Yakima chapter: “Our chapter chose legal representation as their advocacy topic because during their discussion they realized that many of their potential topics could have been greatly helped/ resolved if legal representation had been provided to the young people.”


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We welcome submissions of articles, poetry, artwork, and photography from our young readers who have experience in the foster care system and/ or homelessness. If you want to be, or have been, published in the Mockingbird Times visit www.mockingbirdsociety.org, call us at (206) 407-2134 or email us at youthprograms@ mockingbirdsociety.org. Note: Incoming letters to the editor and correspondence to youth under 18 years should be addressed to the Mockingbird Times and will be opened first by adult editorial staff.