National Center for Youth Law


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WA State Foster Care Reform Settlement Extended

ae87a4faf5Given the large number of outcomes not yet attained under the Settlement Agreement in Braam v. Washington, both parties agreed to extend the agreement by three months, to Oct. 31, 2011.

According to the latest report issued last March by the Monitoring Panel in the Braam foster care reform settlement, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services had met just six of the 22 outcomes established by the panel. However, the agency had made improvements affecting children’s health, safety, and stability.

“While there is still a ways to go, the [latest monitoring] report shows real measurable progress in making changes to the foster care system,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Casey Trupin of Columbia Legal Services in Seattle. Columbia Legal Services is co-counsel in the case along with NCYL and private attorney Tim Farris.

The latest information on the Department’s progress is contained in the monitoring panel’s 10th report. The panel issues reports twice a year tracking the Department’s efforts to implement foster care reforms required by the Braam Settlement Agreement, reached in 2004. The Monitoring Report analyzes data from FY 2010 (July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010) and includes data by region, providing critical information about successful regional strategies, as well as regions that need additional focus.

Areas of Progress

The monitoring report shows the Department had improved performance on a number of outcomes, including caseworkers with caseloads at or below the Council on Accreditation’s standard of 18 children. Timely health screenings have increased to 78 percent of children, up 22 percent since FY05, but short of the 90 percent benchmark. Caseworker visits in FY10 were still far below the benchmark 95 percent of children who are supposed to receive a visit every month, with just more than 50 percent of children who received visits every month. However, the 50 percent marks a significant improvement and the Department said it had reached the 95 percent benchmark in January 2011.

The report also noted progress in other areas, including improved placement stability, reduction in the number of school changes, reduction in the frequency of foster youth running away, and improved timeliness and thoroughness of abuse and neglect investigations.

Need for Improvement

In some areas, however, meaningful progress had not been made, according to the report, including in the areas of support and training for foster parents, and contact between siblings.

For the full Monitoring Report, click here.

For more information about the case, click here.

The Braam Panel was convened as part of the settlement in the Braam vs. Washington lawsuit.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of thousands of foster children in Washington who were bounced from one home to another, and focused on the multiple harms resulting from this constant instability.

The case was settled in July 2004, after the Washington State Supreme Court held that foster children had significant constitutional rights that could not be disregarded, even if there was a lack of funding for key programs.

The Implementation 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, and services to adolescents. The plan sets out measurable outcomes, annual benchmarks, and interim action steps necessary to realize the promises made in the settlement agreement.