Many years after foster care children and their legal advocates sued the state of Washington over the denial of home- and community-based mental health services they needed, the legal team is “thrilled” that the state has satisfied a federal judge that it’s committed to lasting changes that will benefit thousands of foster care youngsters now and in the future.
The judge’s finding allows Washington to get out from under the litigation, which was filed in federal court in 2009 by the National Center for Youth Law and co-counsel Disability Rights Washington, Perkins Coie, Young Minds Advocacy Project and the National Health Law Program.
The plaintiffs reached a settlement with the state in 2013 that required it to develop an approach that centers youth and families to provide intensive mental health services in homes and community settings to Medicaid-eligible children and youth. The named plaintiffs were 10 children, but they stood in for thousands more in similar situations, and the settlement agreement affects such kids now and in the future.
In the eight years since the settlement, the state built and expanded its Wraparound with Intensive Services, or WISe, program. Today, WISe is a well-established statewide program that addresses multiple systemic problems and offers children and families more “hope and positive outcomes,” the National Center for Youth Law said in a statement.
Although Washington’s ability to exit the case is good news, its child welfare system remains under intense legislative scrutiny for other problems, including a failure to provide some of those in its custody with safe and appropriate placements. News reports show that numerous hard-to-place children and youth have spent thousands of nights in recent years in hotel rooms and state offices because the state has a shortage of foster parents and intensive therapeutic homes.
“We look forward to continuing our work with the State to address new and ongoing challenges in the future,” the plaintiffs’ counsel in the mental health suit said in its statement.