Children’s Home Society of Washington (CHSW) is working to acquire funding to support efforts to strengthen the relationships between parents and their children.
Shrounda Selivanoff, director of public policy at CHSW, told State of Reform that the organization’s priorities for the current legislative session include seeking justice for families entering an open adoption agreement, voluntary placement agreement pre-petition legal representation, and securing competitive wages for the Parents for Parents program, as well as for the behavioral health and early learning workforce.
“CHSW seeks to improve the lives of children and families,” Selivanoff said. “Our legislative priorities are grounded in the premise that families belong together and are best served with their families and communities.”
A voluntary placement agreement results in the out-of-home placement of a child without judicial oversight. By agreeing to this, a parent is waiving their constitutional right to a hearing to determine whether their child must be removed, as well as their right to care for their own child. CHSW believes parents should be clearly informed of the legal rights they are waiving when they enter an agreement.
CHSW’s proposal would ensure parents have access to an advocate, reduce the stress of uncertainty experienced by parents and their children in this process, and reduce the amount of expenses and time associated with foster care, Selivanoff said.
The Parents for Parents program is a peer mentoring, education, professional training, and family reunification program that serves parents and their families navigating the child welfare system. When the program received funding from the state in 2015 (as well as additional funding in 2017 for the program’s statewide expansion), 79% of the parents that participated in the program reunified with their families.
CHSW requested $5 million for the program, which would provide increased wages for all of its coordinators, who work to guide families through the child welfare system and promote gainful employment, Selivanoff said.
The organization requested $10.5 million to build capacity at family resource centers, which provide welcoming spaces for families to receive support, services, resources, referrals, and forge partnerships with community organizations. CHSW is working to establish and standardize a statewide family resource center network to strengthen its ability to serve more families. It currently operates eight family resource centers in various regions.
CHSW has also been a strong advocate for Senate Bill 5256, which has passed both chambers of the legislature, and directs the Department of Children, Youth, and Families to administer the Child Welfare Housing Assistance Program, which was previously a pilot program.
“SB 5256 [and] housing [are] our priorities as keeping families safe and together requires securing safe housing,” Selivanoff said. “Our work centers around reaching families early to provide holistic support for all families to continue succeeding and thriving in life.”