The Legislature must invest in restructuring Washington’s child-welfare system and make necessary improvements.
ATIMELY proposal to restructure Washington’s child-welfare system by moving those services into a new Department of Children, Youth and Families is making its way through the Legislature.
The plan has bipartisan support and has passed the House, and is poised for action in the Senate. It calls for moving child protective services out of the mega-sized Department of Social and Health Services and merging it with the Department of Early Learning.
Putting the critical services under a new leadership structure promises efficiencies and more importantly, better results for kids. The move, estimated to cost $10 million, is worth the investment.
The smart, comprehensive reform plan would also bring the juvenile-justice system under that same roof. The approach makes sense and will be — at the very least — better than the system Washington has now. The state is struggling to hold onto caseworkers, can’t recruit enough foster parents and is crisis-driven instead of focusing on prevention.
Lawmakers from both parties and officials at the Department of Early Learning believe the restructuring is logical and will bring the right services to at-risk kids when they need them. Gov. Jay Inslee began the restructuring plan, and it’s been pushed along by Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, and Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Lakewood, who have both made their mark on the legislation.
O’Ban says he plans to hold a hearing on House Bill 1661 in about a week and pass the measure out of his committee soon afterward. He says the main obstacle to passage will be finding the money in the state budget to pay for it.
This is too important a reform not to fund. This issue has been studied for years and the time is now. Lawmakers should approve the restructuring plan on behalf of the kids currently in the child-welfare system and for those who may rely on it in the future.