OLYMPIA – A law approved by Gov. Jay Inslee today establishes a child welfare housing assistance program to shorten the time that children remain in out-of-home care.
Senate Bill 5718, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), creates a Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) pilot program to provide housing assistance to parents whose lack of appropriate housing is the primary barrier to reunification with a child who has been removed from their care.
“We heard of situations where children were staying in foster care for months because their parents lacked appropriate housing,” said Laurie Lippold, Public Policy Director at Partners for Our Children. “This adds to the trauma children have already experienced and places an unnecessary financial burden on the state. We need to do everything we can to safely reunify children with their parents and minimize the negative impact being separated can have.”
“We know that, whenever possible, keeping families together is best for kids,” said Saldaña. “But when they have to be separated, safely reuniting kids with their families becomes the top priority. Doing this sooner cuts down on the adverse impacts of separation on children’s health.”
It is not uncommon, however, for parents to lose their housing assistance when their children are removed. That can lead to unstable housing situations and in some cases, homelessness. In far too many cases, parents who have addressed the issues necessary to have their children returned home are then unable to find appropriate, affordable housing. The result is lengthier stays for children in out-of-home care.
DCYF will consult with a stakeholder group made up of parent allies, parent attorneys and social workers, housing organizations, behavioral health providers and others to determine the pilot program’s details, such as eligibility requirements and equitable distribution.