Foster Care Advocacy in Washington State | YMCA of Greater Seattle

Last updated: March 21, 2024, at 9:07 a.m. PT

Originally published: March 21, 2024, at 9:07 a.m. PT

women reading with a young girl

The foster care and child welfare system is a necessity to protect children and support families in our community. The history of foster care in Washington state contains both successes and failures. It is important that our state legislators, local officials, and the Department of Children, Youth, & Families improve the process to remove children from homes and ensure proper resources and support are in place for youth who enter foster care. There is also a critical need for more foster families to provide safe, stable temporary homes for youth in care in Washington. Many families are not at the point of opening their home to a youth in need but may have the time and resources to support them in other ways. They can still play a vital role in ensuring improvements are made by choosing a way to advocate for youth.  


Ways to Get Involved  

Support Local Organizations 

  • Treehouse has educational advocates that support students in foster care by providing educational support and interventions tailored to their unique academic and developmental needs. Most of the foster youth in the Greater Seattle area are connected to Treehouse. They play a truly vital role in partnering with the youth’s team of existing support to resolve barriers and identify needed resources for the youth to progress at school. Many foster youth are academically behind their peers and can struggle with performing well while in out of home care.  Learn More about Treehouse >> 
  • FPAWS is a local non-profit that provides support and services to foster families throughout Washington State. They also support and advocate for adoptive, foster, kinship, and birth parents at the regional, state, and national levels. Learn More about FPAWS >>
  • The Mockingbird Society is an advocacy organization providing opportunities for youth across Washington to participate in social justice efforts that improve the foster care system. They have youth leadership programs, and organize an annual Youth Advocacy Day in Olympia. Sign up for Advocacy Alerts through their website. Learn More about The Mockingbird Society >> 

Become a Child Advocate (CASA) or Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) 

A CASA or GAL representative are court appointed volunteers who represent a child’s best interest in court proceedings but do not serve as actual guardians or caregivers. Courts may appoint a CASA or GAL in proceedings involving adoption, visitation rights, and termination of parental rights. They perform an in-depth investigation of the child’s living situation and present a report and recommendations to the court. They can also advocate in a variety of additional meetings with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families when discussing foster youth placement changes, educational supports, and other challenges that may arise. CASA and GAL volunteers are screened, trained, and supported by staff. Volunteers form a one-on-one relationship with the child and provide critical information to help the judge make well-informed decisions. It can be very intimidating and scary for foster youth to be involved in court proceedings and there are many different stakeholders present at meetings and hearings who may not have the best interest of the youth at heart. CASA and GALs can serve as an independent source of information and a strong advocate for the youth’s interests.  

Learn More about CASA >>

Learn More about GAL >>


Support Legislative Bills that Support Foster Care

2024-25 Washington State legislative bills include: 

Bill # 5591: Providing dependent youth with financial education and support 

The legislature resolves to create a program to aid young people in foster care with establishing private self-controlled accounts to promote successful transition from foster care into independence. The department shall deposit a minimum of $25 per month into an eligible youth's account as established under this program. The department shall create an online platform to allow youth to establish their financial accounts. An eligible youth is a dependent youth ages 14 and up, including youth in extended foster care, and remains eligible to open an account with the financial support of the department until the dependency proceeding is dismissed. 

Bill # 5853: Extending the crisis relief center model to provide behavioral health crisis services for minors 

By March 31, 2025, the secretary shall amend licensure and certification rules for 23-hour crisis relief clinics in consultation with the authority and the department of children, youth, and families to create standards for licensure or certification of 23-hour crisis relief centers which provide services to children.  

Bill # 5908: Providing extended foster care services to youth ages 18 to 21 

The legislature resolves to reduce barriers that young people currently experience when seeking to participate in extended foster care and to make the transition from foster care to extended foster care as seamless as possible, such that all dependent youth are aware of the program when they turn and all youth who want to participate are able to participate. A youth enrolled in extended foster care may elect to receive a licensed foster care placement or may live independently. A youth who is not in a licensed foster care placement is eligible for a monthly supervised independent living subsidy effective the date the youth signs the voluntary placement agreement, agrees to dependency, or informs their social worker that they are living independently, whichever occurs first. 

Bill #6109: Supporting children and families 

The legislature intends to provide clarity to judges, social workers, advocates, and families about the safety threat that highly potent synthetic opioids pose to vulnerable children. The legislature declares that public health guidance from the department of health regarding the lethality of highly potent synthetic opioids should be given great weight in determining whether a child is at risk of imminent physical harm as a result of abuse or neglect. The legislature recognizes the challenges for recovery and rehabilitation regarding opioid use and resolves to increase services and supports. The legislature further resolves to increase training and resources for state and judicial employees to accomplish their mission and goals in a safe and effective manner. 

Each bill that is being proposed is capable of receiving bill comments, which you can add by visiting this page and searching for the bill:

Contact Your Local Representative and ask them to support these bills:

Call (800)562-6000 (TTY for Hearing Impaired (800-) 833-6388.  

Email your Legislators >>

Learn More >>


Category: Foster Care