A former foster youth-turned state senator credits caring adults who helped guide her path to success, and now the odds are better that other foster kids in Washington state’s public schools will have similar help.
That’s because Gov. Jay Inslee (D) recently signed a bill — the first measure ever offered by freshman state Sen. T’wina Nobles (D) from Tacoma — that makes it so. Under the new law, every school campus must have a designated point of contact to whom foster kids can turn for advice and mentoring.
Under the new law, those contacts will receive training in the particular needs of foster children, their legal rights, and how to connect them with services and supports. Schools need not hire a person as a full-time foster care contact under the new law. It’s likely that a counselor or teacher will take on the task in addition to their other duties. Current law requires liaisons only at the district level, and they will be responsible for training the campus reps.
Nobles told the Seattle Medium, a Black-owned news source in the city, that the new law means a lot to her because of her own experience. She spent much of her formative teen years moving between homeless shelters in Georgia and Alabama, with stops at two different foster families.
Today’s students in foster care need that same guidance, too, the first-year senator said. “These students are our responsibility, and the least we can do is guarantee that someone will be looking out for them where they are every day.”
Nobles is only the second Black woman ever to serve in the state Senate. Less than 6% of Washington residents are Black, yet Black kids make up a far larger percentage of the state’s foster children.
“The needs are many, and sometimes it’s easy for the foster care populations to fall through the cracks,” Sen. Ann Rivers, a Republican representing Port Orchard, told The Imprint after the bill passed the Senate.
Nobles’ Senate Bill 5184 sailed through both houses of the Washington state Legislature and the committee process without a single roll call vote in opposition. Signed on April 16, the law goes into effect July 25.