Legislators this year are considering a series of bills intended to improve services for especially troubled youth and provide better forecasting for the number of youth coming into the system.

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OLYMPIA — As a child taken from her original family due to neglect and abuse, Angel Gardner bounced around 30 different placements in Washington’s foster-care system.

Now 21, Gardner is one of many who have come this year to Olympia urging lawmakers to improve Washington’s foster-care system.

“This is supposed to be a healthier, safer alternative. But if you’ve got a broken system and you’re just putting kids into a broken system and you’re not really fixing it, you’re just filling it up. It doesn’t really work,” Gardner said in an interview.

Legislators this year are considering a series of bills intended to improve services for especially troubled youth and provide better forecasting for the number of youth coming into the system.

Lawmakers are also looking at legislation to extend foster services to young adults who still need help transitioning into adulthood and accessing higher education.

The foster-care system, overseen by the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), currently serves more than 10,000 children and young adults.

Agency officials, lawmakers and others say the programs suffer from a lack of beds and services, resulting in youth bouncing around different placements, destabilizing their home and school life.

Between Jan. 1, 2016, and Feb. 1, 2018, DSHS placed 393 youth in hotel rooms due to the lack of available foster-care placements. The majority of those stays were less than three nights, but a third of them ranged from four nights to 21 or more.

One of the reasons kids are placed in hotel rooms is due to the lack of facilities that can take in foster youth with behavioral issues, officials said.

Behavioral rehabilitation service (BRS) facilities provide basic care with wraparound mental-health services for troubled foster care youth. But since 2009, 10 facilities have closed, resulting in the loss of nearly 170 beds. Most recently, the Navos Ruth Dykeman Children’s Center in Burien closed its BRS facility.

Gov. Jay Inslee proposed an additional $6.4 million in his supplemental budget to bolster the BRS program.

The Democratic Senate’s proposed supplemental budget released Monday suggests $4.3 million for BRS, which would increase rates and allocate some money to support and incentivize facility providers to immediately build up bed capacity.

That funding would give lawmakers a year to implement one of two bills intended to anticipate the number of youth in the foster-care system who may need BRS — and how much it would actually cost to serve them.

Senate Bill 6013, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, would add that program back into the state’s forecast model.

In 2009, BRS was removed from forecasting and instead given a set amount of money to operate on. While the program did receive a 6 percent increase in 2016, it was not enough to keep up with growing costs and an increasing demand for beds.

With those forecasts, DSHS and lawmakers would have a better grasp on the number of troubled youth expected to enter the system. That data would make it easier to plan and provide services.

Senate lawmakers unanimously approved that bill earlier this month and it is now in the House for consideration.

House Bill 2008, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, would also direct the state to make those forecasts. It passed the House 63-34 and has been sent to the Senate.

Kagi’s bill also would direct the state to forecast the number of emergency calls dealing with youth who might have to enter the foster-care system, as well as the number of caseloads and caseworkers needed to deal with the calls.

From 2010 to 2015 the number of emergency calls requiring a caseworker to investigate and visit a child within 24 hours increased by 120 percent, according to DSHS.

That spike of calls has added to the workload of current caseworkers, said Jenny Heddin, director of Children’s Administration’s finance and performance-evaluation division.

“We now have well over a thousand, getting close to 1,500 a month,” she said. “Those are the most likely to result in a child being placed in out-of-home care.”

Why the numbers have gone up is unknown, but Kagi and Heddin suspect the opioid crisis could be a reason.

Many Republicans opposed Kagi’s bill.

House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, said lawmakers last year took steps toward improving the system by creating the Department of Children, Youth, and Families that will integrate the foster-care system and other child-welfare agencies with the Department of Early Learning.

Rather than focusing on forecasting that might boost funding, Kristiansen said lawmakers should focus on changing DSHS’ culture to make it more effective.

“You can throw money at these things and not solve the problem,” he said.

Lawmakers also are considering Senate Bill 6222, sponsored by Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle. It would extend the age at which foster youth can choose to opt into extended foster care.

When foster youth turn 18, they can choose to continue receiving support, but if they opt out those services become unavailable.

Extended foster care includes such services as supervised independent living, financial support, job training and higher education.

The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously Feb. 12, would allow foster youth to access those services until they’re 21.

Gardner, who advocated for the bill on Youth Advocacy Day in January, said extending the age could help many youth in the system transition to adulthood. When Gardner found out about extended foster care at 19, it was too late for her to apply.

“I exited straight into homelessness,” she said.

Had she been able to access the program, she said she would have been better prepared to find a job, avoid homelessness, and generally feel normal in a world where she still can’t afford new clothes.