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Foster care reform oversight panel disbands

An independent panel that oversees the state’s foster care system is going away. And it isn’t because of budget cuts. The panel was scheduled to disband this year.

The Braam Foster Care Oversight Panel, which held its final meeting earlier this week, was put in place seven years ago as part of a landmark legal agreement requiring foster care reform in Washington.Attorneys who originally sued Washington on behalf of children in foster care (Braam v. Washington) say the system has vastly improved. Casey Trupin says he is now confident the Washington Department of Social and Health Services will continue to make progress even without the oversight panel.

“We’re seeing a department  that recognizes the changes in Braam are good for kids, are things they want to strive towards if they’re concerned about child welfare,” Trupin said.

The legal case against the state began back in 1998. The main plaintiff in a class-action suit was a young Bellingham girl named Jessica Braam. Before she was even a teenager, she’d lived in 34 different foster homes. Attorney Casey Trupin says, at the time, her story was typical.

“You know, she had been pinballed around from placement to placement. And even when she found a family that would do anything for her, they weren’t given the right types of information or support to help her be a healthy child,” he said.

As the result of the settlement in Braam v, Washington, an independent panel of national experts helped craft and monitor improvements to the foster care system, such as limits to the number of foster homes a child can be placed in and requirements for health assessments of kids.

Trupin says there’s still work to do. In addition to lowering case loads, foster care advocates are pushing the state to better address the problem of children who run away from foster homes.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.