March 6, 2013
Vol: 20 No: 10

News

Law gives shelter providers more time to help homeless teens

By Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Reporter

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It takes time to build a relationship with homeless teens once they set foot in a shelter. And now the shelters have that time — 72 hours to find out why a teen is homeless and determine how best to help him or her.

State lawmakers have modified the Becca Bill, legislation regulating when and how parents are notified about homeless teens, to allow shelter providers three days before sending a teen home. The modification is the first bill Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law.

“It’s the right thing,” said Megan Gibbard, coordinator of King County’s homeless youth and young adult program. “It gives providers more time to engage with young people.”

The legislature passed the original Becca Law in 1995. It was named for Rebecca Hedman, 13, who was murdered in 1993. Hedman had fallen into prostitution and was killed by one of her clients.

But the original Becca Bill didn’t give caseworkers enough time to work with teens before sending them home again, potentially to an abusive or dangerous situation. Caseworkers had just eight hours before they had to call a parent or the police, but it often took at least 24 before a teen would open up.

Washington tried out the 72-hour window from 2010 to 2012.

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