Working to Improve Foster Care Conditions

Growing up is hard enough without worrying about the next home, the next school, or navigating court decisions, yet many children in the foster care system have to do just that. They may find themselves shuffled from home to home or school to school, unable to set down roots or build community.
The Children and Youth Project at Columbia Legal Services works to improve foster care conditions by advocating for improved oversight and data collection, as well as access to counsel for foster children, and extended foster care for youth ages 18-21 who have aged out of foster care and are striving to establish themselves as young adults

One of the Children and Youth Project’s best-known cases, Braam v. Washington, resulted in initiatives to evaluate and improve foster care conditions throughout Washington State.

Braam is a class action case started in 1998 on behalf of the State’s foster children. In 2014, CYP litigated an extension of the existing settlement agreement, resulting in an order by Judge Charles Snyder of the Whatcom County Superior Court for the State to finish the job of reforming the foster care system as it had promised to do in the 2011 Revised Settlement and Exit Agreement. For more information, click here.

Extended Foster Care

CYP has worked for the adoption and implementation of the State’s extended foster care program (foster care for young adults age 18-21).  To date, the program covers youth in academic and vocational programs, and certain employment-related programs. CYP is working to expand the coverage of Washington’s extended foster care program to all youth as permitted under the federal Fostering Connections Act. Youth wishing to apply for extended foster care can call the State’s intake line at 1-866-363-4276.  For more information, see CYP's Extended Foster Care Fact Sheet.

Right to Access Competent Counsel for Foster Kids

Washington currently ranks 48th in the country, receiving an F grade, in protecting legal rights of foster youth. Most states provide counsel to foster youth in legal proceedings. Without counsel, youth are unable to advocate for what they want in court.

CYP is working towards every foster child having the legal right to the appointment of counsel at public expense to help navigate the legal process and to advocate for his or her stated interests. More information is available in our FAQ.

To learn more, please read Crosscut's article, A lawyer for every kid, on why legal representation for foster kids is important. 

KING 5 News has also profiled this issue in the following articles:

Washington Lags behind Nation in Rights for Foster Kids
Justice for Foster Kids depends on Geography
Study Attorneys for Foster Kinds Save Money for State

On June 21, 2013 The University of Washington School of Law and the ABA Section of Litigation co-sponsored Fostering Justice: Third National Conference On The Right To Counsel For Abused And Neglected Children. Preceeding the symposium was a press conference at which Washington State Rep. Roger Goodman and former Washington state Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge spoke, along with a current foster youth and Section leaders Casey Trupin and Angela Vigil. The symposium drew approximately 130 attendees including judges, legislators, law professors, lawyers and foster youth who worked together to draft materials on topics ranging from outcomes, to litigation and legislative strategies to messaging. The day concluded with a session on next steps that included an energizing presentation from foster youth.