Treehouse, a Washington state nonprofit which gives youth in foster care a childhood and a future, is asking for a $4 million increase in state funding for the 2019-2021 biennium to serve 834 additional youth across Washington state, the organization announced in releasing its legislative agenda.
Statewide, youth in foster care continue to graduate from high school at a rate of less than 50 percent with one exception. Youth who have access to Treehouse's Graduation Success program have an extended graduation rate of 82 percent. The program is today's most effective model for ensuring youth in foster care graduate from high school and launch successfully into adulthood
"Changes in home placement, school transitions and emotional upheaval cause students in foster care to fall behind," said Dawn Rains, Treehouse's Chief Policy and Strategy Officer. "The additional state funding would leverage the money raised in private philanthropy and show the country that graduation parity is possible for youth in foster care."
Treehouse also is requesting an increase in transportation funding for its Driver's Assistance program by $600,000 to ensure all eligible youth have access to driver's education, a driver's license and auto insurance.
In addition, Treehouse is partnering with The Mockingbird Society and the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to address the following:
End Youth Detention for Running Away and Skipping School: Pass SB 5290 and HB1434 to end the practice of jailing youth for non-criminal offenses such as truancy and running away. Replace with trauma-informed processes that address root causes and expand alternatives to detention.
Reduce Foster Care Caseload Size: Pass HB 1631 to decrease caseload size and caseworker turnover to reduce the length of stay in foster care, increase timely permanency and increase caseworker capacity to address educational needs.
Create the Washington State Office of Equity: Pass SB 5776 and HB 1783 to establish an Office of Equity that promotes equitable access to opportunities and resources that reduce racial, ethnic and gender disparities across all state agencies.
Prepare Youth in Foster Care for Adulthood: Support DCYF's budget request to develop a youth-led, data driven transition planning initiative to ensure every youth exits foster care prepared for adulthood.
Improve Foster Parent Recruitment and Retention: Implement strategies like expediting foster parent applications and renewals to improve recruitment and retention.
Be a voice for youth in foster care: Visit www.treehouseforkids.org/advocate.