Braam Foster Care Reform Shows Continuing Progress
Placement Stability Goal Fully Reached
The Braam panel, which oversees the reform of Washington State’s foster care system, released its report covering progress made in the second half of 2011. The report details compliance with 21 outcomes set forth in the Revised Agreement signed in October of 2011.
For the first time in almost seven years, the State has reached full and final compliance on a number of outcomes required under the Agreement.
The three outcomes for which the State has fully complied for 18 months are:
- Placement Stability (more than 90 percent of children must experience two or fewer placements in the first two years in care). Placement instability was one of the key reasons for the filing of the Braam lawsuit. 2011 is the first year that more than 90 percent of children experienced two or fewer placements in their first two years in care.
- Timely Child Health and Education Tracking (CHET) screens (more than 90 percent of children must have completed CHET screens within 30 days of entering care). CHET screens, which have been required by law since 1994, are comprehensive early assessments of child functioning in multiple areas. The State was providing timely CHET screens to only 22 percent of children in 2005, but by 2010, this had increased to 78 percent. In 2011, compliance was at 92 percent (though a change in methodology makes comparison to previous years impossible).
- Ratio of Licensed Foster Care Beds to Children (State must have two licensed beds for every child in licensed care). The State has consistently met this requirement, with the ratio rising from 2.3 in 2005 to 2.6 in the last half of 2011.
“Compliance in these areas represents real progress in the State’s child welfare system over the past seven years,” commented children’s attorney Casey Trupin, of Columbia Legal Services. “There is still a ways to go in other areas, but the hard work is paying off, and the process is working.”
Columbia Legal Services is plaintiffs’ counsel in the reform case along with NCYL and Tim Farris, a private attorney in Bellingham, WA.
Progress continues in other areas. For example:
- The number of children receiving monthly, face-to-face visits from their social worker each month of the year has risen from 11 percent in 2008 to 82 percent in 2011. The Agreement requires 90 percent compliance.
- Caseloads have dropped. 77 percent of caseworkers have less than 18 cases, which is up from 50 percent in 2008. The Agreement requires 90 percent compliance.
- Annual screening for substance abuse and mental health needs has risen from 46 percent in 2007 to 91 percent in 2011, a rate which, if maintained, will result in full and final compliance in this area in six months.
Still other areas show significant reason for concern:
- Only about one in four (26 percent) siblings who should have contact twice a month with each other is getting that contact. The Agreement requires 90 percent compliance.
- While the State had made significant gains in reducing the number of children who run away and in how much time they spend on the run, the trend is reversing. Children are spending more time on the run than at any point during the Agreement, and while the number of children on the run is still significantly lower than at any time other than 2010, the percentage shot up in the last year.
The Panel’s report can be viewed at www.braampanel.org/reports.asp.
The next report will cover progress for the first six months of 2012. The Agreement is scheduled to expire after 2013. More background information can be found at www.braamkids.org and www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/about/imp_settlement.asp.