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Many of Washington’s foster children live with providers who lack state financial support

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Adrian Florez

A new report shows that a high percentage of foster children in Washington live with providers who are not paid by the state, and that can place a burden on those families.

The report comes from the Chronicle of Social Change, a news outlet that focuses on child welfare and juvenile justice. They compiled data from each state and found that in Washington, 39 percent of children in foster care live with providers who do not receive financial support from the state.

Nationally, 20 percent of children in foster care live in unpaid placements.

“States should be asked the question of why there are, in some cases, a lot of kids living in a placement with no financial support from the state, and in what circumstances the state feels that’s OK to do,” said John Kelly, editor in chief of the Chronicle of Social Change.

Washington has one of the highest rates of kinship care placements in the country, with about 45 percent of children in the child welfare system living with kin. Most of those kinship caregivers are unlicensed, which makes them not eligible to receive financial reimbursement from the state Department of Children, Youth and Families.

The department has a backlog of 1,600 home studies to finish in order to license many of those caregivers. Debra Johnson, a spokeswoman for the department, said DCYF hopes to hire more staff to work through that backlog and improve the licensing process. That would make it possible for more of those caregivers to get financial support.

Washington has seen a slight decline in the number of children in foster care compared with last year. According to the report, there were 9,187 children in foster care in 2019, down 1.1 percent from 2018. That follows a national trend.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.