MOSES LAKE — A bill that would make some training for potential foster parents more easily available is likely to travel from the legislature to the governor’s desk.
Under current law, potential foster parents need to attend three eight-hour pre-service training sessions to better prepare them for the challenges and responsibilities that come with taking in a foster child.
The proposed legislation, which passed unanimously 95-0 through the House, would put the entire 24 hours of training material online and instructs the Department of Social and Health Services to allow an undetermined portion of the training to be completed in this way.
The state has struggled to produce an adequate number of foster parents, said the bill’s prime sponsor, state Rep. Paul Graves, R-Fall City, during debate on the House floor. Graves called the training “purposefully inconvenient,” and said that he had often heard from constituents that it was too onerous for them to be able to complete.
If putting training materials online increased the number of foster parent applicants, Graves said, the bill was well worth the roughly $30,000 that it would cost.
There was an almost 15 percent decline in licensed foster families between December 2009 and January 2018, and more than a 22 percent decline in licensed beds for foster children during the same period, according to statistics from DSHS. Kelly Stowe, media relations manager for DSHS, said that this is at least in part due to an increase in foster youth being placed with relatives, who do not need to be licensed by the state.
Former foster parent Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, said on the House floor that this was “a good bill.”
“One of the reasons we stopped being a foster parent was because training became so problematic and took up so much time,” Dent said.
The bill contains a provision that requires at least some of the pre-service training be done in person. This is important so that potential foster parents have a chance to engage with other potential foster parents, Graves said at a public hearing Jan. 12, and would also give DSHS a chance to see how well someone is taking in the training.
“In my perfect world, it wouldn’t be that you can just do everything online and get licensed, but I just think more of it should be so that it’ll be a little easier,” Graves said.
The proposal would only make pre-service training available online. DSHS would still conduct in-person vetting after training is completed, licensing both the potential foster parent and their home for suitability and safety, Graves said.
“There will still be eyes on the foster child,” Graves said.
After passing through the House, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Human Services and Corrections, where it had a public hearing Monday. Committee chair Sen. Jeannie Darnielle, D-Tacoma, commended the bill on its merits and unanimous passage through the house, signaling a likely passage through the committee.