Each year in Washington state, more than 50,000 children and youth are involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
Sadly, these systems haven’t been designed to support the unique needs of youth. Navigating the child welfare system is like walking a tight rope—highly unstable and stressful, with lots of chances to lose one’s footing on the way to successful adulthood. Our justice system works like a maze, with too many entrances and not enough exits, where young people can easily get stuck.
Our approach is to tackle the root of the problem by changing the systems.
We collaborate with many partners to improve child welfare and juvenile justice systems so all young people have what they need to learn, grow, and thrive. For example, we’re working to redesign the juvenile justice “maze” so there are fewer entrances and more pathways outside the system leading to effective interventions, like mental health treatment or education support.
We seek integrated solutions.
We start with listening and understanding. We collect data and talk with youth and their families about their needs. We bring together partners to examine the data and identify gaps in our juvenile justice and foster care systems. We nurture fresh ideas and interventions, and test them through pilot projects. And, we advocate for policy change so our child welfare and juvenile justice systems have the necessary resources to support our state’s children and youth.
Everyone benefits when all youth have opportunities to realize their full potential.
Children and youth are our state’s most valuable assets. When we ensure all children and youth have the opportunity to learn and develop, they and our communities accrue the value. Strengthening the child welfare and juvenile justice systems to meet the unique needs of the young people within those systems should be one of our highest priorities.