This act establishes the “Baby Court” initiative by adding a new section to RCW 2.30. The legislature acknowledges that there is a critical need for child and family services programs to prevent the incidence of child abuse, neglect, and endangerment, while also focusing on the need to minimize the incidence of childhood trauma by providing stability to parents and children within the state. Therefore, SB 5534 creates an initiative to support early interventions with parents of young children who are found to be dependent.
The current law is amended to include a new section which defines “baby court” as:
§ A therapeutic court that provides an intensive court process for families with a child under age 3 who has been found dependent.
§ This case may remain in baby court after the child is past the age of 3 if they are still dependent.
Furthermore, SB 5494 establishes requirements that a baby court must follow, including:
§ Establishing a process for parents to voluntarily participate;
§ Conducting a review every 3 months regarding whether the parent(s) are actively engaged and adequately progressing toward achieving their case plan;
§ Providing access to reasonably available and appropriate services;
§ Aiming to reduce length of removal of young children and reunify them with parents according to the child’s best interests;
§ Make decisions aimed to reduce incidences of child abuse and neglect;
§ Make decisions aimed to reduce the long-term and short-term effects of traumatic experiences; and
§ Promoting effective interaction and the use of resources among the court and public and private child and family services providers.
By January 1st, 2020, the Family and Juvenile Court Improvement Grant Program must distribute grant funds to support baby courts in two superior courts that serve both rural and urban populations.
Finally annual outcome measure data must be submitted to fiscal committees of the legislature beginning on December 1st, 2021.