Partners for Our Children applauds the 2017 Washington state lawmakers who supported legislation that will benefit children and families, especially those who are most vulnerable. In terms of 2017 policy and budget decision-making, the legislature did an incredible job.
New laws that will be of benefit include:
- creating the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF)
- legislating paid family and medical leave for Washington workers,
- allowing foster children more legal representation,
- requiring smaller caseloads for social workers, and
- increasing support for foster parents and birth parents.
The Washington state legislature demonstrated strong bi-partisan support for children and families in a number of ways. Perhaps the most important accomplishment was creating the new Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on July 6, 2017. DCYF will integrate the functions of the Department of Early Learning, the Children’s Administration, and the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration. The ultimate goal is to create an integrated data-informed agency that offers a wider array of well-coordinated and effective services. For more information about the new agency: https://www.dcyf.wa.gov
Currently critical child and family services are delivered through several agencies. Families struggle to navigate these complicated systems, making it more difficult for them to find the services they truly need. Combining child and family services into one department, reporting directly to the Governor, will create greater accountability and stronger advocacy for programs.
Throughout the process of creating DCYF, legislators on both sides of the aisle and many advocates pointed out that creating the department is only the beginning of the long journey towards true and meaningful systems reform. The Governor and the Legislature both have set a bold direction but the ultimate success of the new department will depend on the hundreds of decisions made in the next few years by the new leadership at DCYF.
Gov. Jay Inslee wasted no time appointing Ross Hunter, former director of Department of Early Learning as the first Secretary of DCYF. Secretary Hunter is already out listening to communities and constituents….a very good indicator of things to come.
We know the work ahead is extremely difficult and expectations are high. Governor Inslee and Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate should be applauded for their bi-partisan efforts on behalf of Washington children and families.