Restructuring DSHS

Crisis in Child Welfare
Locally and nationwide it’s clear the child welfare system is in a dire state of disrepair. We recently highlighted one of the bigger problems facing the system: caseworker burnout and turnover. One possible solution on the horizon is a dramatic restructuring of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). DSHS was formed when several state agencies combined under the premise that consolidation means efficiency. Since then it’s become painfully clear that DSHS is anything but efficient.  Governor Inslee appointed a commission earlier in 2016 to assess the potential restructuring, which would include merging Child Protective Services (CPS), foster care and juvenile justice with the Department of Early Learning (DEL). The idea would be that the new agency, the Department of Children, Youth and Families, would emphasize “prevention, intervening with at-risk kids in preschool or earlier on the hopes of diverting them out of trouble.” While this approach would not be without its drawbacks (including the initial cost of about $10 million yearly where the child welfare system is already very underfunded), it’s clear that dramatic and systemic changes are needed to address the myriad problems facing the child welfare system. You can read the final report of the Washington State Blue Ribbon Commission on the Delivery of Services to Children and Families here.

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