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Introduction to Child Welfare Law in Washington . Tim Jaasko-Fisher Director, Court Improvement Training Academy University of Washington School of Law Children and Youth Advocacy Clinic. Most Referrals do not Become Dependency Cases. Total Referrals . Screened out .

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Introduction to Child Welfare Law in Washington

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introduction to child welfare law in washington

Introduction to Child Welfare Law in Washington

  • Tim Jaasko-Fisher
    • Director, Court Improvement Training Academy
    • University of Washington School of Law
    • Children and Youth Advocacy Clinic

Most Referrals do not Become Dependency Cases

Total Referrals

  • Screened out

- Information only

- Alternative Response Systems

- Voluntary Services/Placement

In 2004, less than 10% of referrals resulted in out-of-home dependency placements.

dependency actions guiding principles
Dependency Actions: Guiding Principles

Family unit is a fundamental resource

Family unit should remain intact unless child's right to conditions of basic nurture, health, or safety is jeopardized

When child’s right to safety and the legal rights of the parents conflict, child’s rights prevail

RCW 13.34.020

dependency actions guiding principles4
Dependency Actions: Guiding Principles

Child’s health and safety shall be the paramount concern

Rights of child include speedy resolution of court proceedings

RCW 13.34.020

the dependency petition
The Dependency Petition
  • Anyone may file a petition
  • Must address each parent, guardian or custodian
  • Must address Indian status
  • Must allege that child meets the legal definition of “dependent child”

RCW 13.34.040

a dependent child
A Dependent Child

Is one who –

A) Has been abandoned

B) Has been abused or neglected

C) Has no capable parent or guardian

RCW 13.34.030

children may be taken into custody by
Children May be Taken into Custody By
  • Court order (pick up order)
  • Law enforcement protective custody (PC)
  • Agreement of parent (VPA)

RCW 13.34.050-.055

shelter care hearing
Shelter Care Hearing
  • Must occur within 72 hours of placement
  • Court will appoint parents’ attorney
  • Court will appoint GAL/CASA
  • Court sets case conference

RCW 13.34.065

shelter care issues
Shelter Care Issues
  • Reasonable efforts to notify parents
  • Parents may agree to participate in services
  • Placement of the child

RCW 13.34.065

court may order child placed out of home if it finds
Court May Order Child Placed Out-of-Home if it Finds
  • Services have been offered to prevent or eliminate need for removal
  • No parent or guardian to care for child
  • Release of child to parent or guardian presents a serious threat of substantial harm

RCW 13.34.065

if a court orders placement it must
If a Court Orders Placement, It Must
  • Place with an appropriate relative if available
  • Place with another suitable person if no

relative is available

  • Review its order within 30 days

RCW 13.34.065

case conferences
Case Conferences
  • Held at least 30 days prior to fact finding
  • DSHS must develop a written service plan
  • Information exchanged at case conferences may not be used at fact finding

RCW 13.34.067

fact finding hearings
Fact Finding Hearings
  • Hearing to be held within 75 days of petition filing
  • Only issue is whether child meets statutory definition of “dependent child” by “preponderance of the evidence”
  • Rules of evidence apply
  • Court must enter written findings

In 2004, less than 1% of dependency petitions were dismissed without a finding of dependency.

RCW 13.34.110


Agreed Dependency Orders

Subject to court’s approval following finding that parent knowingly and voluntarily entered into the agreement and understands its consequences.

RCW 13.34.110

  • May be delayed up to 14 days after fact finding for good cause
  • Court will enter orders regarding
    • Placement
    • Visits
    • Services
    • Permanent Plan

RCW 13.34.130

to order out of home placement a court must find
To Order Out-of-Home Placement, a Court Must Find

Reasonable efforts have been made to prevent removal from the home and either

  • There is no parent willing or available to care for the child, or
  • A manifest danger exists that child will suffer serious abuse or neglect if not removed.

RCW 13.34.130



  • Visitation with parents and siblings is a right
  • Presumption that visitation is in child’s best interest
  • Visits may not be conditioned upon compliance with services/ cooperation with DSHS

RCW 13.34.136



  • Plan must set out clear requirements and timeline for completion
  • DSHS must provide all services reasonably available within agency or community or that department has existing contracts to purchase

RCW 13.34.136

review hearings
Review Hearings
  • Held every 6 months from placement episode or date dependency is established, whichever is sooner
  • 1st review must be within 90 days of disposition

RCW 13.34.138

what does a court consider at a review hearing
What Does a Court Consider at a Review Hearing?
  • Have reasonable services been offered to facilitate reunification?
  • Is child placed in least restrictive setting with relatives?
  • Is there a continuing need for placement?
  • Have all parties complied with case plan?
  • Has progress been made toward correcting parental deficiencies?
  • Have parents visited and if not, why?
  • Are additional services necessary?
  • When will the permanency plan be achieved?

RCW 13.34.138

permanency planning hearings
Permanency Planning Hearings
  • Held every 9-12 months from date of placement
  • Court will consider same matters as for

a review and will review

the permanent plan

RCW 13.34.145

permanent plans
Permanent Plans
  • Return home
  • Adoption
  • Guardianship
  • Permanent legal custody
  • Long term relative or foster care
  • Emancipation

RCW 13.34.136