Rep. Travis Couture’s bill to help prevent child malnutrition passes Senate, heads to governor’s desk

House Bill 1274 is Couture’s first bill to pass both houses of the Legislature

The Washington State Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed Rep. Travis Couture’s bill to help prevent child malnutrition.      

The measure by the freshman lawmaker now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

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 the children the next day but did not intervene to protect them.

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.

“I appreciate my colleagues in the House and Senate for their unanimous support of this important measure,” said Couture, R-Allyn. “The state failed Karreon Franks. What happened to him must never be allowed to happen to any child in the state of Washington ever again. While a child malnutrition field guide may seem like a small step, it will ensure that agents of the state no longer have the excuse that they don’t know what child malnutrition looks like.”


Washington State House Republican Communications