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by Hannah Forman
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WA: the 4th state to keep kids & incarcerated parents together?

The Washington State legislature – by a near unanimous vote – passed SHB 1284 that guides the courts’ current discretion to delay termination of parental rights if the parent’s incarceration or prior incarceration is a significant factor for the child’s continued out-of-home placement, as long as the delay is in the best interest of the child. The governor has 20 days to sign the bill into law.

The 1997 federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) states that termination of parental rights proceedings must be commenced by the state when a child has been in foster care for 15 out of the past 22 months. There are three exceptions to this requirement:
The child is in the care of a relative.</li>
<li> The agency has documented a compelling reason why filing a termination petition would not be in the best interests of the child;</li>
<li> Or the agency has not provided the child with the necessary reunification services.</li></ul>

Because of barriers to accessing visits with their children, social services, and legal representation, families who are involved in the criminal justice system suffer from a lack of sufficient guidance in our current child welfare laws. This bill will enhance the prospects for long-lasting permanency for children in out-of-home care, as it will provide courts guidance to better assess the barriers and challenges facing incarcerated parents, such as limited access to family support programs, therapeutic services, and visiting opportunities. However, it will not prevent the state from stepping in when necessary to terminate parental rights in order to provide children with safe, stable and permanent adoptive homes. What is in the best interest of the child remains of the utmost importance.

Find out more & add to the call for family reunification, not termination:

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