Braam Monitoring Panel Finds State Has Failed To Fully Implement Most Requirements
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March 28, 2006
The expert Panel (www.braampanel.org) appointed to monitor efforts to improve Washington state’s foster care system has released its first monitoring reporting. The Panel found that the State has failed to complete more than 70 percent (32 of 45) of the “action steps” to be completed by the end of last year. Under the terms of the agreement, the State now has 30 days to come up with a compliance plan.
“The results are disappointing but not surprising,” said Tim Farris, the attorney who originally brought the lawsuit on behalf of thousands of Washington’s foster children. “While it is clear that some in the Department are working on making changes, the overall picture is not at all where we hoped it would be at this point.”
The report finds that the Department has changed its policies in a number of areas, including treatment of adolescent runaways, notification of parties about placement changes, involvement of parents and children in planning, and reporting of placement histories to the court, among others. However, the Panel found that the Department had often failed to prove that policy changes were implemented and the lives of children in foster care actually improved.
“We are now entering a critical juncture,” said Bill Grimm of the Oakland, CA-based National Center For Youth Law, which also represents the plaintiff children. “The state has precious little time to come into compliance.”
The State’s failure to comply is also of concern due to its failure to request funds for a number of required items in the 2005 legislative session. The State had reported that “resource issues” prevented it from making improvements in a number of areas, including increasing foster parents’ access to respite care. However, neither the Department nor the Governor requested funding for respite or a number of other items in this legislative session. Adequate respite care is critical to keeping foster kids in stable placements and preventing foster parents from leaving the system due to burnout. “The Braam plan is not optional,” explained Casey Trupin of Columbia Legal Services, also representing the children. “This plan is mandatory, based on the collective wisdom of the Department, the stakeholders, the Legislature and now a panel of experts. We will not allow it to be treated as yet another set of task force recommendations which can be disregarded.”
In order to help stakeholders, including foster parents and foster youth, understand the process, Plaintiffs have launched their own website, www.braamkids.org. The site provides information about the panel process, independent reports by the Plaintiffs, and other helpful information for those involved in the state’s foster care system.
“We want to help make this process as accessible as possible to the foster youth whom this process is intended to benefit, as well as foster parents, and others who care about seeing improvements in the foster care system in Washington State,” explained Trupin.
The Braam Panel was convened a year and a half ago as a result of the settlement in the Braam vs. State of Washington – a lawsuit brought on behalf of thousands of foster children in the state of Washington who had been bounced from home to home by the foster care system. In February, the Panel released its Implementation Plan, which set out a definitive reform plan for the next five years. The plan requires changes in six key areas that affect children’s lives in the foster care system:
- Placement stability
- Mental Health
- Foster Parent Training and Information
- Unsafe or Inappropriate Placements
- Sibling Separation
- Services to Adolescents
The plan sets out measurable outcomes, annual benchmarks, and interim action steps in order to turn the promises of the settlement agreement into reality.