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Braam Panel Disbands

On June 30, 2013, the panel overseeing reforms in Washington's foster care system held its final meeting June 24 and 25, 2013.  For the last seven years, the Braam Oversight Panel independently monitored the State's progress toward achieving numerous foster care reforms.  The Panel was a key component of the settlement of Braam v. Washington.  Under the revised settlement agreement in the case, the Panel disbanded on June 30, 2013, and the final year of monitoring under the existing settlement transferred to the lawyers for foster childen. The foster children have the option to ask the court to enforce any reforms that the State hasn't met by the end of 2013. 

Plaintiffs' Attorneys Warn of Impact of State Government Shutdown on Foster Children is Unconstitutional

On June 26, 2013, as the possibility of a government shutdown due to state lawmakers' inability to agree on a state budget neared, plaintiffs' attorneys wrote to lawmakers, stressing that the impact of a state government shutdown on the state's thousands of foster children would be unconstitutional.  Link

Plaintiffs' Attorneys Alert Legislature About Impact of Budget Cuts on Braam -- Funding Restored

On May 20, 2013 plaintiffs' attorneys alerted state lawmakers of impact of the impact that proposed budget cuts to adoption supports and educational advocates would have on the State's ability to meet outcomes required by the Braam settlement.  Fortunately, the final budget, passed in July 2013, restored these cuts.  Link     

Braam Settlement Agreement Extended for 26 Months to Ensure Improved Services for Children and Youth In Foster Care

On October 31, 2011, Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder preliminarily approved a Revised Settlement and Exit Agreement in the case of Braam v. State of Washington. The Revised Agreement, which was reached after months of negotiations between the children's attorneys and DSHS, will extend the Braam Settlement for 26 months, with an end date of December 31, 2013.

The Revised Agreement acknowledges that "in a number of areas, significant progress and improvements to Washington's child welfare system have been made since (the original Settlement was reached in) 2004." The Revised Agreement also acknowledges "that the Department has not yet met a number of key outcomes" that were established by the original Settlement and incorporated into the Implementation Plan.

The Braam Oversight Panel, which was created by the original Settlement Agreement, will continue to operate and monitor the Department's progress on 21 outcome measures through 2012. The Panel will continue to issue semi-annual monitoring reports for the following data periods: July 1, 2011 - December 31, 2011; January 1, 2012 - June 30, 2012; and July 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012. Beginning in 2013, the Panel will no longer be responsible for monitoring the Department's compliance or issue monitoring reports, but it will be available for consultation and technical assistance to the Department.

The Revised Settlement and Exit Agreement filed with the court is available on DSHS's website here.

New DSHS Sec. to "Embrace" Braam Reform

The new Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Secretary Susan Dreyfus spoke at the Braam Panel Meeting on June 15, 2009.  She said she will embrace the Braam settlement as a way to improve the system.

Foster Youth Survey Released!!

On September 4, 2008, the most extensive single-state survey of foster youth anywhere in the country was released by Washington State officials, as part of the state’s efforts to reform its foster care system.  It is one of the only surveys of foster youth in which they were questioned directly about their experiences.  The survey is part of a broad reform effort that began in 2004, after the State settled the Braam vs. State of Washington lawsuit brought by both state and national advocacy groups to improve its foster care system.

You can find results of the survey on the Braam Oversight Panel website here.

More information to follow!!

Whatcom County Judge Orders Department to Comply with Braam Settlement Agreement

On Monday, June 30, 2008, Judge Charles R. Snyder found the Department of Social and Health Services had violated terms of the Braam Settlement Agreement, reached in July 2004.

For more information, visit the following sites for news coverage:

Judge Demands State Keep Foster Care Promises

State Fails to Meet Foster Care Accords, Judge Rules

Foster Care Ordered to Improve

Stay tuned for more updates on this important victory!

Braam Plaintiffs Return to Court

The Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Enforce the Settlement Agreement on May 15, 2008, nearly four years after the parties reached an agreement reached in Braam v. Washington (July 2004).  In the Motion, the Plaintiffs claimed that the state has failed to comply with the Braam Settlement, which was intended to make desperately needed changes to Washington's foster care system.

The Plaintiffs' motion focused on "egregious" examples of continued non-compliance and asked the court for enforcement in four specific areas:

  • Safety
  • Caseload Sizes
  • Sibling Contact
  • Mental Health Screenings

More information about the Plaintiffs' return to court can be found here.  The Department's response can be found here

Media coverage on the Plaintiffs' announcement can be found in Braam in the News.

2008 Supplemental Budget Responds to Critical Foster Care Issues

The 2008 Supplemental Operating Budget directly responded to 3 of the 4 major concerns raised by Braam Plaintiffs' attorneys in the May 2008 Motion to Enforce the Settlement Agreement.  Specifically, the Budget included funding to expedite monthly visits to children in foster care, to facilitate twice-monthly visits between siblings living apart from each other in out-of-home care, and to hire additional Child Health and Education Track (CHET) screeners.  The fourth area of the Plaintiffs' motion (caseload size) has yet to be addressed. 

The Governor vetoed other foster care items that would have a direct impact on the well-being and stability of children in foster care.  The vetoed items include:

  • Expansion of the Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care program
  • Improving educational outcomes for children in foster care

Click here to read a letter to Stakeholders regarding the Supplemental Budget.

For a line-by-line breakdown of Braam-related funding, click here. 

Children's Administration Accreditation Process Put on Hold

On February 15, 2008, the Council on Accreditation (COA) informed the Children's Administration (CA), Washington State Department of Social & Health Services, that the accreditation process for CA was placed on hold.  COA's letter noted that the accreditation process was initiated in September 2001, and that although progress has been made by many of the regional offices, "[t]here remain, however, a significant number of foundational standards relating to stakeholder health and safety that have not been implemented..."

For more information about the suspension of the accreditation process:

  • Letter from COA to CA regarding accreditation placed on hold here
  • Response from CA to COA here
  • Plaintiff's response to COA decision here

Return to Court

On January 18, 2008, the Plaintiffs filed a motion asking the court to enforce the settlement agreement reached in Braam v. Washington in July 2004.  The Plaintiffs claim that the state has failed to comply with the Braam Settlement, which was intended to make desperately needed changes to Washington's foster care system.

The Plaintiffs' motion focused on "egregious" examples of continued non-compliance and asked the court for enforcement in four specific areas:

  • Safety
  • Caseload Sizes
  • Sibling Contact
  • Mental Health Screenings

More information about the Plaintiffs' return to court can be found here.  The Department's response can be found here

Media coverage on the Plaintiffs' announcement can be found in Braam in the News.

Benchmark Data

The second round of Benchmark Data for a number of Braam measures was released in December 2007.  The data shows that while Multiple Placements for children in foster care has decreased, the Department has made little or no improvement on most other indicators.  The following documents provide further information.

Read the second annual Braam Benchmark Report: FY 2005-2007 here.

Read the Plaintiffs' and DSHS's press releases regarding the FY 2005-2007 data here.

Read the initial Braam Benchmark Report: FY 2005-2006 here.

Read the Plaintiffs' and DSHS's press releases regarding the FY 2005-2006 data here.

Workload Study

The Department of Social and Health Services contracted with an independent national expert on workload studies to determine how Childrens's Administration staff, who provide services to children and families, spend their time and the nature of the activities they perform.

The study found that in order to close the gap between existing caseload ratios and constructed standards, 1,540 new staff would be required to close the gap (only with full-time employees).

Results of the Workload Study can be found on the DSHS Children's Administration website.  A letter from CA's Assistant Secretary about the results of the study can be found here.

Click here for a Seattle Times story on the Workload Study.

Foster Parent Survey Results Released in September 2007

This is a groundbreaking survey. We believe it to be the most comprehensive ongoing state foster parent survey ever conducted in this country. Over 1,200 foster parents were interviewed on a range of topics related to the Braam Implementation Plan. The Braam Panel will use some of the questions and results to track the Department's progress towards compliance with components of the Plan, and others will be used to help the Department and stakeholders improve services in a variety of ways. A summary of survey results related to Braam benchmarks can be found here

The survey was conducted by the Social & Economic Sciences Research Center at Washington State University with funding from the Department and with input from the Department, stakeholders, the Panel and plaintiffs' counsel.

The survey will be conducted annually until 2011.

The groundbreaking survey was developed as a way to measure the progress being made toward the improvements required by the settlement.                                                     

While the survey shows some areas where the Department could be on track for meeting Braam-required outcomes, such as foster parent training, it, along with other data released by the Department, also reveals major deficiencies.  For example, although the Department long ago committed to a national standard requiring that children in out-of-home care be visited every 30 days by their caseworkers, over 60% of all survey respondents said the child in their care did not receive a monthly private and individual face-to-face visit from a caseworker.  In fact, the survey indicates that 17% of foster children did not receive a single visit in all of 2006.

The lack of monthly visits was a major issue in a recent 6.2 million dollar verdict against the Department resulting from a lawsuit on behalf of two siblings who were brutally beaten in their foster home.  While the Legislature this year provided some funding to reduce caseloads in order to allow caseworkers to visit children more often, the Department has indicated it still may not be able to provide these visits by the summer of 2009.  

One of the more troubling aspects of the survey was the number of foster parents for whom the Department had no working phone number.  Of the 3,800 foster parents who Washington State University attempted to contact, more than 25% (986) were unable to be contacted because the number provided by the Department was not a working phone number and the foster parents were not listed.  The Department recently provided information about the non-responsive phone numbers, which can be found here

The full version of the Benchmark Report for the 2007 Foster Parent and Relative Caregiver Survey can be found here.

Monitoring Reports

On October 4, 2007, the Braam Panel released another review of the Department’s progress and its proposed compliance plans.  Compliance plans are submitted by the Department when it fails to comply with a benchmark or action step required by the implementation plan. 

As of October 4, 2007, none of the 13 annual benchmarks being measured were met for FY 2006.

For a complete summary of the Panel's Fourth Monitoring report, click here.


On January 11, 2008, the Braam Panel released its fourth official decision on the Department's Compliance Plan.  For the complete text of the Panel's decision, click here.


A status report (as of Nov 3, 2006) is available here.  It was circulated to all BraamKids update subscribers on November 3, 2006.


In conjunction with local CASA programs, the plaintiff's attorneys gave trainings on the Braam reform process in Vancouver on November 29, and in Wenatchee on November 30.  We are planning more trainings in other parts of the state and will post announcements about upcoming trainings once they are scheduled.

Braam attorneys receiving the Voices for Children award.On June 1, 2006, the Braam attorneys received the Voices for Children award from the Children's Alliance.

On April 26, 2006, the Braam attorneys gave a training in Yakima on the Braam reform process.


On April 19, 2006, DSHS set new requirements as of May 1, 2006 for licensed and unlicensed caregivers and social workers when a youth is missing from care. Link