SPOKANE, Wash. - A new state law went into effect in Washington in 2015 that mandates foster parents either get the flu vaccine or risk losing the ability to care for kids under the age of two. A lot of families were adamant about not getting the vaccine, whether for personal reasons or health reasons which resulted in fewer homes available to foster children.
If you ask the Department of Social and Health Services, they will tell you they have not seen a large impact on the number of foster homes available to infants. But many local foster parents say otherwise.
Now that the new law has gone into effect, some foster parents told KREM 2 News they are getting more calls than ever from placement workers who may have fewer options for where to place kids under the age of two.
One foster mom did not want to go on camera, but she told KREM 2 News she only takes infants and her entire family had to get the flu shot to avoid disrupting those placements. She said she will not keep her foster license if this mandate is not changed.
She and many other foster parents that spoke with KREM 2 News said the overwhelming number of kids who need homes, and the shrinking number of homes available, are larger issues than most realize.
Two On Your Side reached out to the Department of Social and Health Services and looked into the numbers.
Statewide, more than 400 foster homes have modified their license to stop taking infants since the vaccine mandate went into effect. At least 80 families have stopped taking infants in our region, which includes Spokane County and the eastern side of the state. Also in our region, at least 16 homes are no longer caring for foster children at all.
But DSHS said they have not seen a significant impact on the number of foster homes available for infants. That is because they looked at the backgrounds of the families that changed their license and most of them had either accepted no children or only one child over the last two years.
They also said they have licensed more than 70 new homes for infants in just January and February alone.
It is also important to note that KREM 2 News asked for these numbers on two separate occasions: in April 2015 and later in the summer of 2015. Between those two times, there was no change in the number of people taking infants.
It seems like most of the initial change after the law was passed may have since died down.