Legislation to provide additional support for children and families going through the child welfare system was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.
SB 5486, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, will improve the Parents For Parents program, which engages families who have children in foster care and connects them to parents who have successfully gone through dependency and are prepared to offer support.
The legislation will help vulnerable families reunite or stay together, and provide the best possible care for the children involved. Parents who have successfully reunified are prepared to offer support by sharing the necessary steps they took in order to successfully reunite with their children. This firsthand account can help parents who are currently trying to get their children back make it seem possible despite the challenging process ahead.
“The child welfare system can be a scary process for families,” said Frockt. “It’s very unfamiliar, people are worried that they’ll lose custody of their children, and the cases often include substance abuse situations or severe economic challenges. Connecting families with other people who have already been through the dependency process and are trained to help will make the process easier and less confusing for those who are trying to responsibly keep their families together.”
The program has been implemented in a few courts across the state and has shown great promise. If funds are available, the program will be formally evaluated to better understand its impact.
“Peer mentorship can make an enormous difference when it comes to helping families navigate the complicated and confusing child dependency system,” said Alise Hegle, Parent Engagement Coordinator with the Children’s Home Society of Washington. “Parents familiar with the system can show parents currently going through the system that challenges like substance abuse and communication difficulties can be overcome, and that families can be reunited or kept together if the parents fulfill their responsibilities. This is a great program and this bill will make it better.”