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Five-year-old Gary Blanton died in the care of an aunt struggling with six kids in a “chaotic” home. Why did the state keep him there? And what are officials doing to address persistent problems in Washington’s child-welfare system?

In Episode 54 of The Overcast, Seattle Times reporter Nina Shapiro discusses her recent story about Gary and the new Department of Children, Youth and Families created by the state Legislature this year.

A fatality-review committee determined there had been inadequate supervision in Gary’s case, as well as “critical errors.” System-wide, there are crushing workloads for caseworkers: 2,400 staffers serve around 100,000 children — 7 percent of the state’s juvenile population. A shortage of willing foster parents is another challenge.

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The Legislature has allocated $6.3 million in startup money and millions more to improve child-welfare programs. But that comes after $150 million in cuts during the recession, and there are questions about whether the new funding will be enough to make change.

This episode was recorded at the Seattle studios of public radio 88.5 FM KNKX as part of an ongoing partnership.

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