Legislative Committee Update – 2/13/17

This is information attached by WaCASA director, Ryan Murrey, to the notice that Advocacy Day had been cancelled.  He includes some very helpful information for writing letters to our legislators.  We hope that you will consider writing to all three of our legislators, Senator Brad Hawkins, Representative Cary Condotta, and Rep. Mike Steele, to let them know of your support for the CASA program, especially as HB 1251/SB 5363 addresses the mandatory appointment of attorneys to all children and would more than likely mean that the state could no longer support CASA programs.

 

Hi CASA volunteers and staff:

 

As far as messaging goes, here’s what we’d like your legislators to know:

 

  1. You are a CASA volunteer in the legislator’s district.  Let them know how long you’ve been doing this, and how many kids you’ve advocated for

 

  1. Talk to them about what you’ve experienced on your case as a CASA advocate.  Lack of services?  Multiple Social Workers? Lack of quality placements?  Tell them a brief story that starts with the phrase “If it weren’t for me as a CASA …”

 

  1.  CASA has a funding request, and it’s tied to HB 1617.  Anything that they can do to support its passage would be greatly appreciated.  It has a public hearing in the House Early Learning and Human Service Committee on Friday morning.  If they’d like more information/follow up, let me know, and we’ll get them that information.  We’re currently serving just under half of all children in dependency, and increased funding would allow more volunteers like you advocating for more children.  Every new volunteer coordinator position we receive funding for means another 60-70 children who will receive a CASA advocate advocating for their best interests.  Said another way, each hour of volunteer supervision results in 3-4 hours of volunteer advocacy.  CASA volunteerism is a huge return on the state’s minimal investment.

 

  1. HB 1251/SB 5363: Mandatory appointments of attorneys: WaCASA’s official position on this is that we support the idea — but not at the expense of the CASA program or best interests advocacy for children in care.  The current fiscal note indicates that mandatory attorney appointments for all kids would cost at a minimum $31 million for the first two years, then $19 million/year after that.  There are a number of proposed amendments to this bill floating around, but at this time, none have been officially released.  In general, we believe that kids over 12 should have access to an attorney, but that it is essential that ALL kids — especially kids 12 and under — have and keep their CASA.

 

  1. Ask them if they’d like to receive any follow up information, and if so, let WaCASA know — we’ll get you that information ASAP.

Remember, your meeting is all about putting a face to CASA advocacy and letting your legislators know you’re one of over 1,500 CASA advocates statewide.

 

After your meeting, drop us a line to let us know who you talked to, if there’s any further follow up needed, and any other important information we should know.

 

Thanks!  If we decided to reschedule Advocacy Day, we’ll let you know.  Otherwise, keep up the advocacy!

 

Ryan Murrey
Executive Director
Washington State CASA
(206) 774-7278