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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Judge Sides Again With Washington Foster Youth

A judge in Bellingham Monday ordered the state of Washington to do more to locate foster children who run away.

It's the latest chapter in a nearly 16-year-long legal fight to improve Washington’s foster care system.

When foster kids run away, bad things can and often do happen according to Mary Van Cleve, an attorney for Columbia Legal Services.

“They’re at great risk of sexual exploitation,” she said. “They’re at great risk of chronic homelessness. Their education gets interrupted.”

And the list goes on.

Now the state will be required to do more to reduce the number of foster youth who run away. The state must also reduce social worker caseloads, offer better training for foster parents and provide more visits for separated siblings.

Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services has made gains in foster care in recent years. Currently, the state is meeting 13 of 21 so-called benchmarks.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."