Successful 2021 Legislative Session
The 2021 Legislative Session closed on April 25, and with it came many strong investments and positive policy changes for children, youth, and families across our state. The Legislature displayed an immense amount of trust in the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to implement major initiatives and distribute new resources on ambitious timelines.
Both pieces of DCYF’s request legislation passed. HB 1186 will provide $11.2 million to establish a community transition services program for youth in Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR), while SB 5151 makes Washington the first state in the nation to license outdoor, nature-based early learning.
To improve outcomes for children, youth, and families, DCYF received investments in nearly every corner of the agency, including:
- A $5.6 million behavioral health services package to hire JR staff to help youth with substance use disorders and support dialectical behavioral therapy.
- $11.5 million for 119 FTE caseworkers and supporting staff to reduce caseload ratios across the biennium.
- Passage of HB 1194 and HB 1227 to strengthen DCYF practices and improve experiences for families involved in or that may become involved in the child welfare system.
- $29.8 million to expand the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) and add new slots.
- Passage of the Fair Start Act, which will increase investments in early learning services and expand access to programs and services for families.
View slides from DCYF's 2021 Legislative Wrap-Up presentation for a closer look at these investments and more.
One of the populations hit hardest by the pandemic's economic and social fallout is young adults, particularly those who don't have the extensive family support networks that many of us and our children do. Youth and young adults in foster care are prime examples. Many of the jobs they would go into in retail, food service, or other in-person customer service jobs suddenly ceased to exist. The community college or high school they were attending suddenly ceased to provide in-person instruction, or even worse, just shut down.
Gov. Jay Inslee, the Legislature, Congress, and the new Biden administration have put some resources into ensuring that these young people don't fall through the cracks and wind up in a worse place than they are now. Just like the moratoriums on evictions, the Children's Bureau and the Legislature made it so that young people in Extended Foster Care (EFC) don't become homeless through no fault of their own.
In January, Gov. Inslee signed Proclamation 21-02: Extended Eligibility for Foster Care Services, which extended eligibility for foster care services to those who have turned or will turn 21 years old during the COVID-19 pandemic. The proclamation ensures that DCYF can follow the federal regulations (listed as Division X) in the new federal stimulus bill.
DCYF intends to remove all barriers allowed under this law to encourage youth to remain as participants in the EFC program.
Youth who turn 21 remain eligible for EFC until at least Sept. 30, 2021. If youth left EFC because they aged out during the pandemic (between Jan. 27, 2020, to present), they can re-enter EFC regardless of whether they are in school or employed.