The Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) works diligently to improve the lives of young people that come into our care and prevent further trauma. In the upcoming 2021 Legislative Session, DCYF is asking lawmakers to invest in a plan (i.e., pass legislation) that supports youth and young adults transitioning back into their communities more easily, while reducing recidivism and racial and ethnic disparities. The plan focuses on expanding least-restrictive options for when youth are ready to transition.
Research indicates community placement with connection to education, vocational and employment opportunities decreases recidivism and increases successful reentry (McCarthy et al., 2016 and Altschuler & Bilchik 2015). This also results in positive contributions to the local and state economy, reductions in incarceration costs and an overall increase in public safety.
As part of our agencywide strategic plan, DCYF is focused on achieving better outcomes for young people by successfully transitioning them into adulthood. By expanding least-restrictive options, using the Risk-Need-Responsivity Model, we will ensure young people have equitable access to services that promote self-sufficiency and independence. Examples of least-restrictive options include:
- Juvenile Rehabilitation Community Facilities: Where young people gain community employment skills, strengthen family connections through enhanced visitation and home leaves and attend public school, all in a more therapeutic environment.
- Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM): Allows eligible young people to go home to complete their sentence, as a further step down from a community facility.
- Aftercare Support: Community contracts for research-based reentry case management services provided to young people without parole aftercare.
- Functional Family Parole (FFP): Where community counselors provide carefully planned reentry support to promote access and connection to essential community resources. This includes employment, housing, education and supervision to enhance a young person’s compliance with parole conditions and follow through on reentry plans they developed while in residential care.
We are worried about young people aging out of foster care into a damaged economy with fewer job opportunities. It would be even more terrible if those youth were to lose their housing on top of that. To help, the Washington State Department of Commerce: Office of Homeless Youth allocated $1 million in CARES Act funding to DCYF to provide stipends to young adults who will age out or have aged out of Extended Foster Care at age 21, between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020.
The purpose of the funding is to support housing stability for youth who exited the Extended Foster Care Program at age 21.
Eligible youth will receive $800 per month for each month that they were eligible. For example, youth who turned 21 years old in March 2020 could be eligible for up to $8,000 over the 10-month period. Youth who turned 21 years old in April will have nine months of eligibility and will receive a total of $7,200.
An innovative partnership between the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) and DCYF
The Parenting Sentencing Alternative, Substitute Senate Bill (SSB) 6639, was enacted in June 2010. This law allows some incarcerated individuals who are parents of minor children the opportunity to avoid prison or transfer from incarceration in order to parent their children. One component of this law is the Community Parenting Alternative (CPA), which allows DOC to transfer an incarcerated individual home on electronic monitoring for up to the last 12 months of their sentence.
To determine a parent’s eligibility in the CPA program, DOC facilitates a committee of stakeholders, including DCYF as a partner, to assess participation. DCYF staff support DOC community corrections officers by providing training and professional development on the Strengthening Families Protective Factors, assessing and addressing domestic violence, providing referrals to early learning and early childhood services and more.
DCYF staff participate in the monthly screening panel for participants to determine the best interest of the child when transferring cases to CPA. In 2019, they met Dale Clark – a case they were originally unsure of.