Legislature OK’s Padden bill to ease burden on foster parents

A bill making it easier for foster parents to retain their state licenses was approved by the state House Tuesday and heads to the governor’s desk for final consideration.

Senate Bill 6500, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, eliminates a requirement that all foster parents provide advance notice before they move to a new address. Those who do not have children placed in their care at the time of a move may notify authorities within 90 days of a move.

The bill passed the Senate 47-0 Feb. 13, and was approved by the House 96-0.

It is easy for foster parents to overlook the rule when they are not caring for children at the time, Padden said. At least 46 foster homes were closed between 2017 and 2019 because of the licensee’s failure to notify the state or community agencies before moving. Those who wished to continue were required to start the rigorous approval process all over again.

“At a time when we have a shortage of foster parents in this state, and some foster children are being housed in hotels and motels, we shouldn’t be kicking parents out of the system because of paperwork issues,” Padden said. “We should honor their compassion, energy and selflessness in providing homes for children under the state’s care. This bill will make it easier for Washington to retain good foster parents whose work we value so highly.”

Under Padden’s bill, foster parents who wish to continue with the program must notify licensors within 90 days, and a home inspection must be carried out within 30 days of notification. No new placements could be made until the new location is inspected and approved.

In testimony Jan. 29 before the Senate Human Services, Reentry and Rehabilitation Committee, Robyn Nance of Spokane, a KXLY-TV anchor and a former foster parent, said she was shocked to lose her license when she and her husband failed to provide advance notice before moving to a new home. Nance said reapplying is a daunting task, involving background checks, health certifications and a mountain of paperwork. “I would love to continue to work with foster children, but to be honest with you, some of the state regulations make it really hard,” she said.