National Center for Youth Law

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Court in Braam Says State Must Comply with Foster Care Reform Settlement

State Has 30 Days to Detail Compliance Plans in 4 Key Areas

June 30, 2008- A Judge in Washington State has ruled that the state’s Department of Social and Health Services must keep the promises it made four years ago to dramatically improve the care and protection of the state’s 10,000 foster children.

In its latest ruling on June 30 in Braam v. Washington, the Court agreed with plaintiffs that the Department has failed to comply in four key areas, and has failed to provide adequate data about the children in its care.  The National Center for Youth Law, Columbia Legal Services, and attorney Tim Farris,  representing the state’s foster children, filed a motion in January seeking Court enforcement of the settlement in four key areas. The Department has 30 days from the date of the Court ruling to detail how it will comply:

  • Monthly visits – The Department must provide monthly visits to all children in its care starting September 1, 2008.
  • Caseloads – The Department must commit to reduce caseloads of foster care workers to adhere to the standard of one caseworker for every 18 children in care or 8 children with special needs.
  • Sibling Contact – The Department must provide twice-monthly contacts between siblings separated in foster care.
  • Mental Health – The Department must provide child health and education tracking screens (“CHET Screens”) within 30 days of entry into care.

The Court ordered the Department to determine whether it needed funding to comply, and to request that funding from the Legislature next session.  The Court also found that the Department had “fallen well short of its obligation” to provide sufficient data about foster children, and ordered it to provide such data.  The Department must show “demonstrable” progress within the next few months, the Court said.