New space at the Children and Family Justice Center will:
Much of the work at the Youth Services Center today involves child welfare cases, also known as dependency cases. Children may be removed from their home due to concerns about safety, such as violence in the home, abandonment, neglect, or a parent with substance-abuse issues. Dependency Court works to connect parents with social service agencies that will help them reunite with their children. The goal is to support parents enough to eventually dismiss the case. But, in cases in which a parent may be incapable of safely raising a child, the court may place the child with a suitable adult — preferably a relative — continued foster care, or an adoptive family.
As case loads increase, so does need for space
Sadly, the number of these cases has increased sharply. Case numbers in King County jumped 54% from 608 in 2009 to 937 in 2014. This has led to more hearings and longer wait times.
The crowded Youth Services Center is inadequate for families who could spend all day in the courthouse. Bathrooms have no changing tables for infants and water from fountains is undrinkable. The court’s unwelcoming lobby concentrates seating into straight rows, limiting space children can roam while supervised as well as space for personal conversations. The majority of families coming through Dependency Court have faced some form of trauma in their lives and visiting the Youth Services Center only compounds their emotional stress. Spaces for the Parents for Parents Program and other needed services is small and difficult for families to find and access.
Dependency Court Programs
Superior Court offers a program to help parents whose children have been removed from their care by Child Protective Services (CPS) or whose children are in an in-home dependency. The program - called "Parents for Parents" - connects "veteran parents" (parents who have successfully navigated the juvenile dependency court system) with parents who are involved with the system. The veteran parents provide support and help parents new to the system understand what they must do to successfully reunite with their children.
The Dependency CASA Program serves children up to 11 years old who have allegedly been abused and/or neglected. The process focuses on the best interests of the child. The court will try to reunite a family if conditions at home improve sufficiently. A CASA is a trained volunteer who represents the best interests of children as they are taken through the legal process.
This is an alternative dependency court that specializes in helping parents resolve substance abuse issues so that they can be reunited with their children. It's designed to improve the safety and well-being of children in the dependency system by providing parents access to drug and alcohol treatment, judicial monitoring of their sobriety and individualized services to support the entire family.
As part of the Parents for Parents Program, parents are invited to this workshop to gain a better understanding of how dependency case management works and the process they must go through to have a case dismissed. Both veteran parents and dependency court staff help teach the classes.
If child-safety issues can be addressed through family law actions such as divorcing or moving away from an abusive adult in the home, dependency cases may be resolved early.