foster care

Kim Malcolm talks with Connie Lambert-Eckel about why some Washington foster kids end up being taken in by families in other states. A recent New York Times investigation tells the story of a New York foster parent who's accused of sexually abusing three boys from Washington. Lambert-Eckel is director of field operations for Children's Administration at Washington's Department of Social and Health Services.

Where to send foster kids? For 72 hours, Skookum House

Aug 24, 2016
Skookum House provides 72 hours of shelter for foster kids in Bellingham, giving social workers more time to find them a home.
KUOW Photo/Sarah Eden Wallace

There was a kid they called Peanut at the Child Protective Services office in Bellingham.

“He spent a lot of time with social workers, just going around the office,” recalled Alex Fitzstrawn, a supervisor here. Peanut also slept on the couch in the office.

A bill that makes sweeping changes to Oregon's oversight of foster care providers takes effect next month. The reforms were proposed after numerous media reports of abuse and neglect at several foster care providers.

Oregon is falling short of many of its own goals when it comes to caring for children in its foster care system. That's according to a review released this week.

A driver’s license and proof of insurance are two basics before getting behind the wheel. But Washington state auditors couldn’t find those documents for four volunteer drivers who ferried foster youth to appointments.

The state of Oregon has agreed to pay out $15 million in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of nine children who were sexually abused while in foster care.

Larry and Mary-Jeanne Smith have been foster parents for 20 years. Mary-Jeanne Smith was also in the foster system as a child.
Courtesy of Mary-Jeanne Smith

Mary-Jeanne Smith was 13 when she ran away from home. She said she left to avoid an abusive environment.

“My parents had joined sort of a religious cult and there was a lot of physical, sexual and mental abuse,” she said.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown wants an independent review of the state's foster care system. It comes after the Willamette Week newspaper reported that the Oregon Department of Human Services ignored warning signs at a prominent foster care provider in Portland.

In this Sept. 10, 2014 file photo, detained immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center in Texas. About 70 children from the border have been placed with foster families in Washington state.
AP Photo/Eric Gay

Sara, 20, is a Mexican student in Des Moines, Washington, a half hour south of Seattle. She wears her hair in two braids, tucked under her black knit hat. White ear buds hang from her collar. She’s friendly, but far from talkative.

We meet in a small meeting room at Highline Community College, where she is taking a GED-prep class. She looks out the window as she recalls her first days in the U.S., at an immigration holding shelter in California. 

Kim Malcolm talks with Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network about how Washington state is trying to reduce the number of teens who run away from foster homes.

KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Some parents don’t know how to parent.

When their lack of parenting skills put the child in danger, that’s when the state comes knocking – to take their children away. Nearly 7,000 kids in Washington state were placed in foster care last year.

Washington is under court order to keep foster youth from running away. So the state now has a team of “locators”--social workers whose job it is to find runaways and bring them back.

Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services now has a team of social workers whose sole job is to find foster youth who run away.

From Foster Care To Freshman Year

Jan 6, 2015

By the time she aged out of foster care, Jasmine Uqdah had spent nearly half her life in the system. On a summer day in 2008, Uqdah grabbed her duffel bag and two small garbage bags, and she stuffed everything she owned inside.

It wasn't much — just some clothes and a few stuffed animals. She said her goodbyes to her foster family in Detroit and moved out. She was 18 years old.

The agency that oversees child welfare in Washington wants to hire nearly 100 more child protection workers.