OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington lawmakers passed legislation designed to provide additional support to children in foster care.
The new law established under SB 5184 adds a point of contact in all K-12 public schools for students in foster care.
The bill is the brainchild of Senator T’wina Nobles, who went through the foster care system herself. As a result, Nobles is well aware of the benefits of a stable school environment.
“School is where I spent a lot of my time academically and socially,” she said. “It’s where I could spend time as an athlete. It’s where I could count on a warm meal. It’s where I could count on consistent meals. It’s where people did see me.”
Foster care advocates say that maintaining consistency is crucial when it comes to success in school, but it can be challenging to have if you’re going through foster care.
“Most of our foster kids are behind in schooling, just because of the transitions of going from home to home,” according to Nathan LaChine, founder of Evergreen Caregiver Support. “The unfortunate thing is there are not enough homes in a lot of locations, so a kid could start out in Seattle and end up down in Aberdeen because there’s not enough homes or vice versa.
“You could have a kid that’s on track at this high school, but then transfers over to another high school and the credit requirements don’t transfer over,” he continued. “[So] this science class could transfer over as an elective and no one knows it because the last time we sat down with a guidance counselor three school districts ago they said they were on track and they’re really not.”
Because children spend so much time in school, Nobles feels there’s a strong opportunity to use them to catch problems early on.
“Most of our students spend at least six hours a day in schools, which is a good portion of our awake time,” she said. “We do have a good opportunity to change lives and provide that care and mentorship and show concern for our students.”
The senator went on to say that she wants to make sure that this legislation does what it’s supposed to do. She hopes to hear from students and school faculty that would be involved to make sure that plans put in place under this new legislation are successful.
Meanwhile, advocates support the idea of making sure more resources are devoted to making sure that students in the foster care system get the help they need to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks.
“These are our next leaders, our doctors, and politicians, and we’re not looking at providing direct resources now, we’re going to have to provide those resources at a later date,” LaChine said. “Why let the kids exit care with no plan? Why let them out into the streets or into a job that’s not going anywhere, when we can provide the resources now when we know it’s easier?”