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After Hours: Fostering Chaos

KING 5's Chris Ingalls and Taylor Mirfendereski investigate the mistreatment of Washington state's "hard to place" foster youth.
Credit: Adobe Stock

After Hours: Fostering Chaos is a multi-part, on-going KING 5 investigation into the mistreatment of Washington state's "hard to place" foster youth.

Part 1 

No Bed, no blanket: Social workers blow whistle on Washington forcing foster youth to sleep in cars, offices as punishment 

May 20, 2021A four-month KING 5 investigation found a years-long pattern of Washington child protection workers dangling basic necessities like a safe, warm place to sleep as a way to get certain “hard to place” foster children to behave or follow orders.  

Read and watch the full story

Credit: Ryan Coe / KING 5
A foster teen rests on the floor of the Washington Department of Children Youth and Families office lobby in Kent.

Part 2

Washington social workers claim lack of support from state in after-hours foster care 

July 13, 2021: Interviews with DCYF employees and a review of law enforcement records reveal a chaotic and unstable environment for the social workers who work the night shift.

Read and watch the full story.

Credit: Kent Police Department
A screenshot of Kent Police Department body camera video shows Seairra, a Washington state after-hours social worker, talking with police officers after she was nearly attacked by a foster teen in January 2021.

Follow Up Stories 

Washington watchdog to probe child welfare agency over alleged punishment of foster youth 

June 8, 2021: The state watchdog’s probe comes in response to a KING 5 investigation, which uncovered a years-long pattern of Washington child protection workers dangling basic necessities, like a safe, warm place to sleep, as a way to get challenging foster youth to behave or follow orders.

Washington state agrees to end hotel, office stays for foster youth 

June 21, 2021: The Washington Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) has agreed to put an end to its years-long practice of placing foster youth overnight in hotels and state offices, according to federal court documents filed on Friday.

DCYF oversight board grills state child welfare leader about alleged punishment of foster youth

July 15, 2021: DCYF Secretary Ross Hunter faced nearly two hours of questioning from members of an oversight group Thursday in direct response to multiple KING 5 investigations.

Washington foster care agency to launch new housing option for hard to place teens

Sept 2, 2021: Washington state’s foster care agency introduced a six-page plan to carry out a federal court order to stop placing foster children in hotels and state offices.

'There's serious issues': DCYF oversight board chair seeks answers on foster youth punishment in Washington 

Oct. 6, 2021: The leader of Washington state’s child welfare agency faces mounting criticism over his agency's response to issues raised in a KING 5 investigation about the punishment of foster youth. 

Why Washington is struggling to stop housing foster kids in hotels

Oct. 17, 2021: Ahead of a looming deadline to stop housing Washington foster children in hotels, advocates have doubts about the state's plan to make it happen. 

Washington agency to ask courts to force some foster youth into unwanted placements

Oct. 21, 2021: As DCYF leaders scramble to meet a federal court deadline barring hotel stays for foster youth, they're trying a forceful new tactic to comply with the order. 

State watchdog confirms KING 5 investigation that foster care agency punished hard-to-place youth 

Dec. 13, 2021: A Washington Office of Family and Children's Ombuds’ probe, launched in response to a KING 5 investigation, confirmed reporters’ findings that some foster youth spent most of the night in state vehicles, and child protection workers occasionally used coercive measures to convince the children to accept group home and foster home placements.  

Contact the reporters

Taylor Mirfendereski is a KING 5 investigative reporter, who specializes in multimedia storytelling, longform reporting and digital projects. Follow her on twitter at @taylormirf. E-mail her at tmirfendereski@king5.com or contact her via Signal at 206-348-4106.

Chris Ingalls is a KING 5 investigative reporter. Follow him on twitter @CJIngalls. E-mail him at cingalls@king5.com or contact him via Signal at 971-267-5320.  

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