House unanimously passes Rep. Travis Couture’s bill to help prevent child malnutrition

House Bill 1274 is Couture’s first bill to pass out of the House

The Washington State House of Representatives today unanimously passed Rep. Travis Couture’s bill to help prevent child malnutrition.      

House Bill 1274 would direct the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), in consultation with the Department of Health (DOH), to create a child malnutrition field guide for their staff.

On Nov. 27, 2020, Karreon Franks, a 15-year-old boy in Vancouver with developmental disabilities, died of starvation a mere six days after he and his malnourished siblings were visited by a state Child Protective Services (CPS) agent.

At the time of his death, he weighed only 70 pounds.  

The investigation into Franks’ abuse began in 2017 after concerned neighbors contacted state authorities in April, and again in October, to report concerns about Franks’ guardians beating and withholding food from him and his siblings as a form of punishment. In both instances, state case workers dismissed the allegations and closed the cases.

On Nov. 20, 2020, one week before Franks’ death, state authorities received another call from an anonymous person describing, in detail, the emaciated state of Franks and his siblings. A state case worker visited them the next day but didn’t intervene.

The 35th District lawmaker’s proposal is designed to assist CPS agents in being able to identify the signs of child malnutrition and prevent future tragedies.

The field guide must:

  • Be concise, but provide references to additional comprehensive and trauma-informed resources for department staff to access if needed;
  • Be easily accessible by department staff;
  • Describe how to identify signs of child malnutrition;
  • Include appropriate questions to ask the child and others close to the child when child malnutrition is suspected;
  • Include the appropriate next steps department staff may take when child malnutrition is suspected; and
  • Include any additional information the department deems relevant.

“What happened to Karreon Franks must never be allowed to happen to any child in our state ever again,” said Couture, R-Allyn. “While a child malnutrition field guide seems like a small step, it’s a step we can take right now to ensure that when these state agent visits happen, they can take immediate action. No longer can anyone have the excuse that they didn’t know what child malnutrition looks like.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov