Special Efforts Being Made in Washington to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

Governor Inslee’s Blue Ribbon Commission on the Delivery of Services to Children and Families released its final report in November 2016. The Commission’s chief recommendation was to create a unified Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) that reports directly to the Governor and focuses on early learning, prevention, early intervention, child safety and child and family well-being. The new agency would utilize the existing structure of the state's Department of Early Learning, with the addition of programs currently administered by the Department of Social and Health Services within the Children's Administration, Juvenile Rehabilitation, and Office of Juvenile Justice. Specifically with regard to the prevention of child abuse and neglect fatalities, the report notes the importance of providing opportunities for children involved in child welfare to receive developmental screenings and services, and high-quality early learning opportunities, as child care has been demonstrated to reduce fatalities among children involved in child welfare.

In a December 2016 policy brief, Governor Inslee set forth a timeline for DCYF’s creation: Beginning July 1, 2017, a new Office of Innovation and Alignment, initially located in the Governor’s office and eventually subsumed by DCYF, will lead transition planning efforts for the new agency. It will focus on children, youth and families most at risk of abuse or neglect and those who face trauma often linked with low rates of kindergarten readiness, dropping out of school, substance abuse and homelessness. During the transition, the Office of Innovation and Alignment will lead systems reform efforts. The Office will create better connections among state agencies to improve the collective impact of services to children, youth and families, regardless of which agency offers the service. The office will use data to link any agency involved with a family with the right services at the right time, regardless of where that assistance may be. It will also be responsible for facilitating connections with other innovators — researchers, philanthropic groups, other innovative states. On July 1, 2018, services offered through the Children’s Administration will move to DCYF, including Child Protective Services, the Family Assessment Response program, child welfare case management, in-home support services, adoption support, out-of-home licensing functions and extended foster care for youth up to age 21. DCYF will continue its strong focus on early learning programs, prevention and early intervention services, as well as child care licensing. In July 2019, DCYF will begin administering programs offered by the juvenile rehabilitation office and the Office of Juvenile Justice in DSHS. [Recommendation 5.1]