Medical evaluations will be easier to access and less traumatic for children suspected of being victims of child abuse, under legislation passed unanimously late Thursday by the House.
Having already passed the Senate on a similarly unanimous vote, Senate Bill 5814 now goes to Gov. Inslee to be signed into law.
“In order to remove barriers between children and the protection they deserve, we need a permanent funding stream to pay for evaluations of children who may be victims of abuse,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver). “In past years, the funding has come and gone, making things even harder for children who already may be suffering tremendous trauma.”
Cleveland’s legislation restores funding to cover examination costs for any children suspected of having been physically assaulted. Though the state’s Victim’s Compensation Fund has long covered the cost of medical evaluations for children who may have been sexually abused, there was no comparable assistance for children suspected of having been physically abused. Legislation by Cleveland in 2015 extended that assistance to cover cases of physical abuse, but that law expired in 2019. Cleveland then authored a budget proviso to extend funding through 2020, but that provision has since expired as well.
“Children who are abused need help, not an obstacle course that discourages their families from reaching out,” Cleveland said. “This bill removes a key obstacle once and for all.”