Follow-up from Telephone Town Hall – Foster Care and 520 Bridge Schedule

Thanks for the 4000-5000 folks who listened to a segment of our telephone town hall last week. There were a lot of questions asked. If you have an extra hour and want to listen to the recording of the questions I answered here it is. I said I’d answer questions left on voicemail at the end, and we had the following two that we didn’t get to:

520 – When will Construction End? (Ever?)

According to the WSDOT website, the Eastside portion (405 to the lake in Medina) of the project will be finished in the summer of 2014. I think this means that “Cars will be able to drive on it, and most major construction will be done.” I expect there to be some finishing work afterwards, but the major construction should be finished.

The floating portion is planned to be finished to the point that cars can drive on it in 2016.

The West landing, from Foster Island to I-5 is not currently funded. The current funding will provide for 6 lanes up to Montlake, with the existing portion used for Eastbound traffic and the new  portion for Westbound. The problem here is that the HOV and transit lanes won’t be configured well and they will have to cross three lanes of traffic to get on and off, causing congestion.

Foster Care

The person who asked the foster care question in the live portion had a follow-up question because I provided a relatively narrow answer. My comment during the call was that we had approved “Foster care to 21” for the group of kids who are working 80 or more hours a month. We currently fund the additional three years for youth who are in school or engaged in other productive activities.

The caller’s concern was for the kids who are perhaps less functional.  I share this concern and in the phone message I left her I talked about several efforts we have underway:

  • The Braam settlement. We are expanding services to kids in the foster care system, including lowering the caseloads of caseworkers to comply with a federal lawsuit settlement. This is an effort to improve outcomes and not have kids in placement after placement. More info here.
  • Mockingbird Hub Home model. We’re expanding this innovative way to organize foster homes to reduce turnover (50% a year for foster parents) and improve service to kids in more of an “extended family” model. Read more about it here:
  • Family Assessment Response. We’re switching some of our interventions in at-risk families to a less punitive and more service-oriented model. Based on experiences in other states we think there will be better outcomes for kids.
  • Investment in children’s mental health capacity. There is a lot of overlap between the population of kids in foster care and those that need some behavioral health services, and we are increasing our investment in this area by $8 million this year, and phasing in up to $35 million per year over the next 5 years.

There is always more we could do, but we’re trying to make progress.

Author: Ross

I am the Director of the Department of Early Learning for Washington State. I formerly represented the 48th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives, chairing the Appropriations committee and spent many a year at Microsoft.