O’Ban bill to give foster children a voice passed by House, headed back to Senate

20140131_LegWA_5144shA bill to provide Washington’s foster children with legal representation in dependency proceedings faces one final hurdle before becoming law. Senate Bill 6126, sponsored by west Pierce County Sen. Steve O’Ban, passed the Senate unanimously on Feb. 17 but was amended in the House of Representatives before receiving unanimous approval there today. The Senate must now agree with the change before the bill can head to the governor’s desk.

“I’m very pleased to see this measure continue to move through the lawmaking process, especially because there’s less than one week left in the 2014 legislative session,” said O’Ban, who represents the 28th Legislative District. “These children, who are essentially orphans, have had very little say in their own futures; providing them with a voice in court can make all the difference in the kind of adults they will eventually become.”

There are nearly 10,000 foster kids in Washington who will benefit from SB 6126. O’Ban noted that after passage of his bill, each will have a fighting chance at moving out of the foster-care system and into adoptive, loving homes much more quickly.

“A majority of other states already require similar protections of a child’s legal rights, but Washington has yet to follow suit,” O’Ban added. “It’s the state’s responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our society, and I can’t think of anyone more vulnerable than children left without parental guidance. Former foster children from other states testified in my committee how alone they felt before being granted a legal representative and how much of a difference it made. We’re doing the right thing with this bill, and I look forward to standing beside the governor as he signs it into law.”

O’Ban said the passage of SB 6126 was one of his top priorities heading into the 2014 legislative session.