Foster Care: A System in Crisis

Month’s of reporting on Washington State’s foster care program by InvestigateWest has shed light on a system under strain and in disarray; there is a major problem in Washington State’s foster care system. What actions should we take to fix the problem? Where should the conversation start? Take a listen as panelists Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell, Representative Ruth Kagi (D-Seattle), former Department of Social and Health Services employee Dee Wilson, advocacy lead and Washington State Parent Ally Committee/Children’s Home Society of Washington staffer Alise Hegle, and Foster Parents Association of Washington State Executive Director Mike Canfield chat with moderator and Town Hall Program Director Katy Sewall. Plus, we hear about promising fixes and solutions that are being considered to redress them. 

Despite having a master’s degree and a supervisory job with Washington state’s Children’s Administration, social worker Tanya Copenhaver struggled to make ends meet for her daughter Cassidy. She ultimately left the state agency for a hospital job – and increased her salary 30 percent.

Social worker churn undercuts Washington’s foster care system

Tanya Copenhaver followed in her father’s and grandmother’s footsteps by becoming a social worker for Washington state’s Children’s Administration, a difficult but fulfilling calling she never expected to give up. During 15 years of working in the foster care system, on a job considered among the hardest in the state, she worked her way up to supervisor. But even with a master’s degree and a management position, the single mom struggled to pay rent and daycare. She and her daughter ate at her mother’s house to save money. Last year, Copenhaver finally left the vocation she cherished to take a post at a Pierce County hospital – with a 30 percent pay raise.

For two years Karly Leib worked for a private agency that recruited foster parents. She reluctantly quit after getting worn down by the state foster system’s relentless struggles. “I thought, ‘How do I ask people to get involved in such a ridiculously broken system?’” she said.

Washington’s troubled foster care program struggles to keep foster parents

Over the course of four years, foster parent Veronica Moody of Kirkland took in babies and children with severe challenges, including drug exposure, extreme tantrums and nightmares, head-banging and third-degree burns. But that wasn’t the really hard part of the job, the part that drove away Moody and her husband Chris from accepting more kids. It was Washington state’s dysfunctional foster care system. “All the problems the state causes, due to lack of resources and lack of training, make our job as foster parents very difficult,” Moody said. “It burns you out.”

The Moodys’ tale is sadly familiar.

Brittany Middlebrooks, 26, is part of the grassroots Amos Project in Cincinnati. The group works to combat recent name removals from voter registration lists. Middlebrooks was diagnosed with lupus, which makes it hard for her to walk, but her passion and dedication for her work pushes her to get out and help her fellow voters in Washington Park. (Roman Knertser/News21)

New laws leave voters to navigate maze of requirements

CINCINNATI – With the presidential election less than three months away, millions of Americans will be navigating new requirements for voting – if they can vote at all – as state leaders implement dozens of new restrictions that could make it more difficult to cast a ballot. Since the last presidential election in 2012, politicians in 20 states passed 37 different new voting requirements that they said were needed to prevent voter fraud, a News21 analysis found. More than a third of those changes require voters to show specified government-issued photo IDs at the polls or reduce the number of acceptable IDs required by pre-existing laws. An appellate ruling kicked the case back to a lower court to determine ways to make it easier for Texans without ID to vote, after the court found that more than 600,000 lacked the required ID.“We have two world views: the people that think voter fraud is rampant and the people who want to push the narrative that it’s hard to vote. The bottom line is neither is true,” said Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who has been sued several times over his state’s removal of some voters from the registration rolls, elimination of same-day registration and curbs to early voting.

Mikah Carlos studies at Arizona State University and lives in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. She said a poll worker refused to let her use her tribal ID to vote in a recent election in Arizona. (Roman Knertser/News21)

Native Americans still fighting for voting equality

Native Americans who live on reservations consistently deal with distances and language barriers when it comes to voting. But experts who study Native American voting rights said recent changes to legal requirements and provisions for voting have exacerbated those problems.