National Center for Youth Law

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Judge Rejects State’s Request to be Released from Reforms that Impact Youth Who Run from Foster Care





Media Release
June 29, 2017

Contact: Mary Van Cleve, CLS Attorney, 206-287-8622 (work), 206-856-8158 (cell),

Bellingham, WA – This week, Judge Charles Snyder of the Whatcom County Superior Court ruled that the State of Washington must finish the job of reforming the foster care system, as it promised to do in a 2011 settlement agreement in Braam v. State.  Noting that it would be an “injustice” to the young people protected by the reforms, the Court denied the State’s request to excused from compliance with two remaining reforms that address youth missing from foster care.

“Many youth who run from care lack a connection to their placement, and may run to check up on younger siblings or to see parents or other relatives,” said Mary Van Cleve of Columbia Legal Services who argued on behalf of the foster children. Other youth impacted by today’s ruling are those at high risk for running, including those in group homes, youth who have been sexually trafficked,  youth suffering from mental illness and drug addiction, and LGBTQ youth who may be ostracized by their caregivers. “ It’s a question of equity. This work is not done until we address the most vulnerable of the already highly vulnerable population of foster youth”, said Bill Grimm of the National  Center for Youth Law, co-counsel on the case.

The Braam case is a class action started in 1998 on behalf of the State’s foster children. A Revised Settlement Agreement, entered by the Court in 2012, set forth 21 agreed-to reforms that would improve the conditions of care for the states foster children. Some of the reforms already met include sibling visits, monthly health and safety visits for children, mental health and health screening, and reducing the number of times foster children change placements while in care.

The State sought to revise the two reforms impacting youth missing from care, and then have the court find it in compliance with the revised measures. After denying the State’s motion, the court asked that the state and the plaintiffs meet to further evaluate data and whether the reforms could be improved upon.

“The Court affirmed today that the clear promises made to foster children to improve care must be kept,” said Van Cleve, “These reforms reflect clear results that the State agreed to meet, and we are glad that the Court is requiring the State to continue to focus on them. As a result of today’s ruling, the State will need to address the needs of this high-risk group of children.”


Columbia Legal Services advocates for people who face injustice and poverty. We seek to achieve social and economic justice for all, using policy reform, litigation, and innovative partnerships to reveal and end actions that harm the communities we serve.

The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) is a national non-profit organization that has been working for over four decades to improve the lives of at-risk children. Employing a range of strategies, NCYL works to ensure that low-income children have the resources, support, and opportunities they need for healthy and productive lives.