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Judge Sides Again With Wash. Foster Youth

A judge in Bellingham has ordered the state of Washington to do more to locate foster children who run away.

Monday's decision is the latest chapter in a nearly 16-year-long legal fight to improve Washington’s foster care system.

When foster kids run away, bad things can and often do happen according to Mary Van Cleve, an attorney for Columbia Legal Services.

“They’re at great risk of sexual exploitation,” she said. “They’re at great risk of chronic homelessness. Their education gets interrupted.”

And the list goes on.

Now the state will be required to do more to reduce the number of foster youth who run away. The state must also reduce social worker caseloads, offer better training for foster parents and provide more visits for separated siblings.

Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services has made gains in foster care in recent years. Currently, the state is meeting 13 of 21 so-called benchmarks.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.

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