Legislature passes series of landmark bills expanding opportunity for homeless, foster youth

May 1st, 2017|

OLYMPIA – A package of bills passed by the Legislature will expand opportunity, protections and support for homeless and foster care youth. Each of the bills, from those designed to facilitate on-time high school graduation (HB 1444) and greater housing stability (SHB 1867) to those reducing barriers to obtain identification cards (SB 5382) and car insurance (ESHB 1808), demonstrate Washington’s commitment to closing the opportunity gap for those students most in need. All four bills have been sent to Gov. Inslee to be signed into law.

Senate Bill 5241, which will require school districts statewide to grant partial school credit and provide alternative means for required coursework for homeless students when waivers are not granted, has been signed into law by the governor.

“The 2017 Legislature took significant steps toward fulfilling our moral obligation to support and uplift children in need and who deserve a chance to succeed,” said sponsor of the bill, Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle. “I am thankful to my colleagues from both houses and both parties for their work coming together to help open these pathways.”

Several of the bills were proposed by foster youths themselves at the annual Mockingbird Society Youth Leadership Summit, where foster youth from around the state came together to present their ideas for the coming year to legislators and policy makers.

“Sen. Carlyle is to be commended for his unwavering support of the most vulnerable among us,” said Janis Avery, CEO at Treehouse, a nonprofit that serves 7,000 foster children statewide. “Now that the Senator’s bill, SB 5241, is law, foster youth will be able to continue progress toward high school graduation despite disruptions that are out of their control.”

The average kid in foster care changes placements three times—losing four to six months of academic progress at each stop.

House Bill 1816, a technical fix to help improve the performance of the Office of Homeless Youth and homeless youth service providers, and House Bill 1641, which changes consent provisions for nonemergency primary care services for homeless students, also await the signature of the governor.