In Washington state, nearly half of children in foster care are placed with a kinship caregiver, most often a grandparent. Due to the existing relationship that kinship caregivers have with the children in their care, most kinship caregivers are not licensed caregivers and have fewer requirements to meet before being considered a safe placement. The Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) runs a background check and visits the caregiver’s home to ensure it is a safe space for children, but it does not require kinship caregivers to go through the extensive licensing process that typically takes four months to complete. This reduction in red tape quickly provides children with stability and familiarity, keeping them connected to their family and community. However, this also means that kinship caregivers don’t receive the same amount of financial support and resources as foster parents. That’s all changing!
Washington State recently passed SB 5151 which allows for “child specific licensing.” This means that the state can issue a license to a kinship caregiver that is equal to the rights and responsibilities of a foster family license with the exception that it is specific to the child(ren) they are caring for who are formally in the child welfare system. DCYF is currently in the process of engaging key stakeholders to determine the minimum requirements. We are proud to share that Amara was selected as one of two child placing agencies to join DCYF’s workgroup in creating this new license!
So, why is this important? Growing evidence shows that the best placement for children in foster care is with “kin” – a relative or trusted community member in their life. Kinship caregivers, unlike foster parents, have not independently chosen to engage with the child welfare system and care for kids. They are asked one day to care for a child in their family or community while the child’s parents access services and resources. They have not had time to prepare in the ways that foster parents do throughout the licensing process. This law will greatly increase the amount of resources and support kinship caregivers receive. By making it easier for relatives and close community members to serve as caregivers, we can support safety and stability for kids.
Thank you to Senators Das, Kuderer, Nobles, Soldaña, and Wilson for sponsoring and championing this bill!
Are you a kinship caregiver or know someone who is? Make your voice heard by joining DCYF’s Kinship Care Oversight Committee. Contact Geene Delaplane at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-688-0391.