We wrote about a potential dramatic restructuring of our state’s child welfare system that would aim, among many other things, to address state worker turnover. One proponent of this plan is The Seattle Times, which argues that the state would get better outcomes by shifting focus to a prevention-first approach. The Times, recognizing that the system must address “fractures in society caused by intergenerational poverty and substance abuse,” says that preventive, wraparound services for at-risk children are “often an afterthought.” Currently, foster children have third-grade reading levels at least twenty points lower than those not in foster care, and only 2.6 percent of foster youth graduate from college within four years of high school graduation. It also says that the current system is so crisis-focused that the system “too often simply skips over teenagers.”
The plan is far from a surefire solution but it’s difficult to argue too strongly against it when the current state of the child welfare system is so dire and no wide-scale alternatives are apparent. One of the main reasons the paper supports the restructuring is the fact that the current system is clearly not working (“not working” is a very mild of putting it). While supporting a solution on the basis that nothing else has worked is a bit troubling, it does make sense. As The Times also points out, a decade of court oversight following the class-action lawsuit known as the Braam decision has not fixed the system. As the adage goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. Washington State is certainly in desperate times when it comes to child welfare.