Origins of the BECCA Bill
The BECCA Bill was passed in 1996. The parents of a 13 year-old girl (named Rebecca) went to the juvenile court for help with their daughter. Rebecca was out of control and her parents wanted to find some help for their daughter. In September of 1993 Rebecca walked out of a drug treatment center in Spokane WA. She returned to street life as “Misty” – prostituting to fund her addiction to crack cocaine. Within a month Becca was found dead in a park. Becca’s parents were unable to stop her from running away. State law at the time didn’t allow parents to admit their children to drug treatment without the child’s consent unless a child was 12 or younger. Nor did the law explicitly require individuals or youth shelters to notify parents if a runaway child came or left. Her parents then lobbied the state to pass this law in order to help other parents.
There are three different petitions that are covered under the BECCA Bill:
The At-Risk Youth (ARY) petition is utilized by parents to petition the court to get assistance and services to help with their at-risk youth. Here is the petition for Spokane County: https://www.spokanecounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/1188/At-Risk-Youth-Petition-PDF
A Child in Need of Services (CHINS) petition is used to petition the courts for assistance and services when they feel it is needed. Link to Spokane County CHIINS: https://www.spokanecounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/996/CHINS-Petition-PDF?bidId=
Schools are mandated to file Truancy petitions when a certain number of absences in a month or year have been met. The truancy orders require the youth to attend school every day, every period, on time, and can also hold the parents responsible for chronic truancies.
What does the BECCA Bill actually do?
It requires anyone providing shelter to a runaway must notify police or the child’s parents. The bill also clarified procedures for parents to get court involvement for at risk youth. Specifically youth who were runaways or had drug and alcohol involvement. The bill also requires school districts to file truancy petitions if a youth has seven unexcused absences in a month or 10 in a year.
Judges can order youth who appear before them for truancy or at risk youth petitions to follow certain rules. These rules include attending school daily, submitting to drug and alcohol testing, or returning home every day by a certain time. Youth who choose to not comply can be sentenced to serve up to seven days in detention.