Treehouse Stresses Need for 20 Child Welfare Caseworkers in Announcing Legislative Agenda

SEATTLE, Jan. 17, 2020  — Treehouse, a statewide nonprofit which gives youth in foster care a childhood and a future, is asking the legislature to invest in 20 additional caseworkers to help meet the caseload ratios agreed to under the Braam settlement agreement. High caseload sizes lead to poor case management, high staff and foster parent turnover, lower rates of family reunification and increased length of stay in foster care. As a result, Washington children spend more time in foster care than in 46 other states.

“The caseworker is the most critical investment the legislature can make in the success of families and children in the child welfare system,” said Dawn Rains, Treehouse Chief Policy and Strategy Officer. “Smaller caseload sizes will mean more stability for children and youth in foster care and a better opportunity for them to thrive as contributing members of our communities.”

Forty-three percent of DCYF caseworkers have caseload sizes exceeding 20 youth or more, with some as high as 30. Best practice recommends no more than 15.

In addition, Treehouse is advocating to:

  • Pass the Achieving Education Success for Foster and Homeless Students Act.
    In 2019, a collaboration of state agencies and statewide nonprofit organizations known as Project Education Impact submitted a report to the legislature outlining the needed programs, policies and action to achieve educational parity for these young people from pre-k through postsecondary by 2027. To implement the plan, measure progress and realize these recommendations, the workgroup must continue its intentional cross-systems collaboration and accountability.
  • Meet the individualized education needs of youth in foster care.
    Forty percent of the youth Treehouse serves depend on special education services to get the support they need to succeed in school. Treehouse is asking the legislature to better support kids with high mental, behavioral and developmental health needs so they become kindergarten ready through improvements to the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP); ensure adequate and equitable funding for special education supports; lower the student to school counselor caseload to a minimum of 250:1 for all schools.
  • Improve services and supports for adolescents in foster care.
    Washington is facing a crisis for adolescents in foster care, particularly for youth with high behavioral and mental health needs. Treehouse is supporting DCYF’s proposal on a number of measures to address these complex issues, including building out the Adolescent Programs division.

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