DCYF Asks Legislature to Repeal Parent Pay Statute

November 23, 2021
A small plant growing from a jar of coins.

DCYF proposed a bill to the Legislature that would repeal RCW 13.40.220, Washington’s “Parent Pay” statute, which charges families for their child’s incarceration. The law currently requires parents to pay a percentage of their income to DCYF for the cost of their child’s support, treatment, and confinement in Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR). It disproportionately impacts low-income families and represents a dated policy and philosophy that are not aligned with current racial equity and social justice reforms.

“It puts families at risk,” said one parent of a youth in JR care. “They’re going to garnish [wages]. You don’t have a choice on how much to pay or when to pay. You have to choose between vehicle, rent, food – something has to go if you’re going to pay it. It impacts the whole family in a negative way.”

Pursuing these parents is unfair and sometimes forces them to make impossible trade-offs when they are most vulnerable. Placing them in debt may also result in unstable home environments, which impedes successful youth reentry back into the community. Eliminating parents’ financial obligation to pay for their child’s incarceration advances racial equity and supports successful transition into adulthood for the youth in our care, two of DCYF’s strategic priorities.

For more information on this agency request legislation, read the Parent Pay fact sheet.