For the last two years, homeless youth had 3 days to stay in a shelter before staff was required to call and notify their parents of their whereabouts. During these three days, staff could create rapport with the young person, build trust and find out if they were fleeing a violent or abusive situation or taking a breather and that reconciliation with family was possible. After July 1, however, this 72 hour window will end. The Becca Bill was adopted by the Washington State Legislature in 1995 to protect homeless and run away youth by giving parents more control over where their children are located. The Becca Bill is connected to the truancy policy for students in Washington State. The law requires that shelter staff and other service providers contact parents of youth younger than 17 years old with their whereabouts. The enforcement of the law is controversial and two years ago, due to much advocacy, the Legislature passed a temporary provision giving service providers 72 hours to serve a minor before having to notify parents or the police. This temporary extension will expire after June 30th. Service providers will now have only 8 hours with youth before law requires them notify families or the authorities. That is, if the youth show up at all once word gets out.
The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness is communicating with agencies that this change will directly effect to coordinate advocacy efforts and to get the word out about the change to homeless youth, service providers, and the community at large. At our Youth and Young Adult Committee meeting on July 10th and at our General Membership Meeting on July 19th members of the coalition will have an opportunity to discuss advocacy and efforts under way at various agencies to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of this change in policy. Unfortunately, any policy change that might return the 72 hour window to service providers working with minors will have to wait until the 2013 state legislative session. Follow these links to find out more: