New Washington law could let children stay with relatives if both parents lose custody

(Eric Ward // CC BY-SA 2.0)

A new law could reshape the way child dependency cases are handled in Washington, potentially leading to more children staying with family members without those relatives being required to adopt them.

Under the current practice, the state forces relatives to adopt children when neither parent can take care of the child. If family members don’t wish to adopt, the Department of Children, Youth and Families removes children from those placements, even if those relatives still want permanent kinship guardianship, and places the child up for adoption.

"We’re removing children out of relatives’ homes, loving relatives’ homes, because they’re unwilling to adopt," said Shrounda Selivanoff, director of public policy for the Children’s Home Society of Washington and a proponent and writer of the legislation.

Children’s Home Society said the state currently "prioritizes termination" of parental rights instead of using other options, the News Tribune reported. Termination of parental rights is not required when a dependency case ends, they said.

Under the new law, the state won’t be allowed to move children from their relatives’ care if those relatives don’t want to adopt. Financial assistance also has been expanded for relatives who are eligible.

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