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One Way To Reduce Foster Runaways: Have Fewer Foster Teens

Washington is under court order to improve its foster system.

Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services now has a team of social workers whose sole job is to find foster youth who run away.

Long-term though, the agency wants to reduce the number of kids who remain in foster care into their teenage years.

Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins says the goal instead will be to get kids into permanent homes before they become teens.

“This business of being in foster care when you are a teenager, I don’t anybody thinks that is an optimal situation," Jenkins says. "I mean it’s not optimal when you’re little, but to still be in foster care when you are 13, 14, 15 - far from ideal."

Jenkins says teenagers and foster care can be a combustible combination. That’s an age when kids are naturally trying to assert independence and separate from adults. Washington is under a court order to address the issue of runaways in the foster system.

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."