The Senate passed legislation today to better represent the needs of youths and families overseen by the Children, Youth and Families Oversight Board by adding two board seats for people under the age of 25.

“Acknowledging the voice of youth is very important, especially for a board that oversees the health and safety of Washington residents from birth to adulthood,” said  Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the bill’s sponsor. “This adds the voices of people more likely to be aware of systemic disparities in our state programs and to understand the impacts of any unintended consequences.”

Senate Bill 5435 expands the board — whose purview runs the gamut of early learning, juvenile rehabilitation, juvenile justice, and children and family services — from 18 seats to 20. The new members would include a current or former foster youth representative and someone with current or former involvement in the state juvenile rehabilitation administration.

“There is really no better person to oversee the performance of DCYF than one who has experienced the system firsthand,” Wilson said. “No one else on the board can understand the strengths and weaknesses of our system as fully as someone who has had to live with the results.”

The board oversees the state Department of Children, Youth and Families, a cabinet-level agency established in 2018 to promote the social, emotional, and physical well-being of children, youth and families across Washington. The agency was established in July 2018 by combining the Department of Early Learning with the Children’s Administration from the Department of Social and Health Services.