Sen. Steve O’Ban Wednesday continued his effort to protect nearly 10,000 foster children by ensuring they have the right to their own legal support. His legislation, Senate Bill 6126, went before the Senate Ways and Means Committee; the Tacoma-area Republican says that although a majority of states guarantee an attorney will be appointed to give a foster child a voice in court proceedings and protect the child’s legal rights, Washington has no such law.
“This bill would protect the most vulnerable kids in our society,” said O’Ban, who chairs the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee. “I’ve worked these issues for a long time and it’s clear to me that more has to be done to protect these kids. If we fail them, we fail as a society and I – for one – can’t let that happen in good conscience. It’s a right long overdue.”
SB 6126 would require a court to appoint an attorney for a child in a dependency proceeding within 72 hours of granting a petition to legally terminate the parent-child relationship. The original version of the proposal would have created a pilot program to study the effects of the law, as well as require a university-based child-welfare research entity to evaluate those effects; however, those provisions were removed for fiscal reasons.
“While I’m disappointed that the study and pilot program were left out of the final version of my bill, this issue is of such monumental importance – not only to me but to everyone who calls Washington home – that we had to get it to the full Senate for a vote one way or another,” added O’Ban. “Listening to all those kids testify in my committee really touched a nerve and helped me realize how necessary this bill really is. I’m very glad the budget committee decided to move it forward and I know my colleagues in the Senate will do the right thing by sending it to the House of Representatives for consideration.”