It feels like there are always changes in the world of foster care. The latest changes are a series of House Bills introduced on July 1st, 2023, that impact the foster care world. The new legislative changes revolve around family time visitation and new requirements to remove children from their home.
Family Time Visitation (House Bill 1194)
House Bill 1194 focuses on family time visitation for children in care. This new bill requires that the first visit occurs within 72 hours (about 3 days) of a child’s placement. The legal presumption, once the bill is enacted, is that visits will be unsupervised. At each child’s shelter care review, and permanency planning review hearing the visitation level of supervision will be reviewed and visits will be brought back to unsupervised unless the court receives a report establishing evidence that “removing visit supervision or monitoring would create a risk to the child’s safety”. As a result, visitations must occur in the least restrictive setting and be unsupervised unless the presence of threats or danger to the child requires the constant presence of an adult to ensure the safety of the child.
The younger the child is, the more necessary it is to have frequent visits with their parents. The longer the period of uncertainty and separation for the child from their primary caregiver, the greater the risk of emotional and developmental harm to that child. House Bill 1194 helps ensure that the period of uncertainty for a child not seeing their parents is a maximum of 72 hours (about 3 days).
Keeping Families Together (House Bill 1227) 1227 HBR APP 21 (wa.gov)
House Bill 1227 initiates fundamental changes when removing a child from their home and the shelter care requirements from the state. The new house bill modifies the standard that hospitals, law enforcement, and courts use to authorize the removal of a child from their parent. It also raises the standards the court needs for a child to be removed from the home. House Bill 1227 indicates that a child is to be removed from the home to prevent “imminent physical harm”. It also mandates that at the child’s initial shelter care hearing the court is to release the child back into the parents’ care unless they find that the removal of the child is necessary to prevent “imminent physical harm”. For the court to remove a child from the home they must receive evidence from the department that there is a “causal relationship between imminent physical harm to the child and the conditions of the home” WA-Legislative-Case-Law-Updates.pdf (wacita.org). The courts also now must weigh whether the damage of removing a child from the home will outweigh the imminent physical harm a child will experience in the home. If the courts decide that it is necessary for the child’s safety to be removed from the home, the courts must prioritize placement with relatives and suitable others when placing them out of the home. In House Bill 1227 relatives and suitable others are prioritized over licensed foster care. This new house bill removes common barriers to placement with unlicensed relatives and suitable others. This is in an effort to keep the family unit together as much as possible.
The recent legislative changes may be confusing to understand. If you have any questions regarding these updates, please do not hesitate to contact me or any staff members at City Ministries. We will be happy to answer any of your questions. For more information on these house bills please visit the following websites:
- HB 1194 Impacts on Family Time Visitation | Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families
- 1194 HBR CYF 21 (wa.gov)
- City Ministries Information: Info@CityMin.org
- Jenai Pamer Case Manager: Jenai@citymin.org
Jenai Pamer, MICD