Whew - we are fresh off a whirlwind 60-day session! As always, youth advocacy, our coalition of partner organizations, and your individual support were crucial to the success of our priorities this year. While not every priority made it through the process, I'm incredibly proud of the work we did and the groundwork we've laid for the next biennium. Here's a quick recap of how each of our legislative priorities landed:
|Strengthen Extended Foster Care: Thanks to the leadership of Senator Carlyle and Representative Fey, SB 6222 passed and was signed by the Governor on Friday, March 9. Effective July 1, foster youth will have the opportunity to enroll in the Extended Foster Care (EFC) program until they turn 21, and will be able to unenroll and reenroll in the program as many times as they need to while establishing their independence. Lastly, foster youth who are in a Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA) facility or in a trial return home on their 18th birthday will be eligible to enroll in EFC.|
|Expand Access to Higher Education: SB 6274, sponsored by Senator Ranker, includes Mockingbird's goal of ensuring foster youth in Washington from: (1) the tribal welfare system, (2) the federal foster care system, and (3) in the state under the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, have access to the Passport to College Promise Scholarship program. In addition, this bill expands Passport to youth experiencing homelessness, and to foster youth who spent time in care after age 13. Lastly, it creates an apprenticeship support program. The expanded populations will be phased in over several years, beginning July 1, 2019. Representative Kilduff's leadership was also instrumental to this success!|
|End Detention for Status Offenses: SB 5596 made it further than this issue ever has before - through the Senate, through a House policy committee, and out of the House Rules Committee. Unfortunately, Judges and Juvenile Court Administrators mounted serious opposition to removing the option of detention until an effective alternative option could be determined. We are committed to working with them and other advocates through the interim to develop a path forward on this topic. Washington continues to lead the way on arresting and detaining youth for non-criminal offenses, and we can and must do better for our young people. We are grateful to Senator Darnielle's ongoing leadership on this issue, and to Representative Kagi for her hard work in the House on the bill.|
Improve Data Collection: After three years (!) of work, HB 1630, sponsored by Representative Slatter, finally passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed by Governor Inslee. This bill allows unaccompanied homeless minors to choose to share their information with the state's Homeless Management Information System - allowing Washington state to have more accurate data about the scope and prevalence of under-18 homelessness, as well as assess the effectiveness of program designed to serve this population.
Invest in Affordable Housing: The legislature quickly passed a biennial capital budget with more than $106m for the Housing Trust Fund early in the session. Mockingbird will continue to push for affordable housing for young adults exiting homelessness and transitional housing.
Strengthen Youth and Families: There was a significant proposal to improve the system of services and supports for families and youth in crisis who seek relief from the courts through an At Risk Youth or Child in Need of Services petition. Unfortunately, this proposal in SB 6467 and HB 2870 did not move forward. Instead, a study to develop a proposal for a new system response for families in crisis was included in the final operating budget. We anticipate Mockingbird will be involved in that work, which overlaps with our goal of ending detention for status offenses. Senator Darnielle and Representative Orwall deserve thanks for their commitment to young people and families.
Thanks to our incredible community of supporters, youth advocates, advocacy partners, staff, and board of directors for a tremendous two months of powerful advocacy! Now we move to implementation of these great policies that passed, regrouping on those that didn't, and pursuing our non-legislative, youth-led priorities for 2018. I look forward to keeping you updated on this work - as it's just as critical as the work we do during the legislative session!
Director of Public Policy and Advocacy
|P.S. Don't forget to say thank you to your lawmakers! Click here to find your lawmakers.||