Today, Governor Jay Inslee announced a transformative shift for how services will be delivered to children and families in Washington State – a shift that Partners for Our Children has supported for many years. Through an executive order, Governor Inslee is creating the Washington State Blue Ribbon Commission on Delivery of Services to Children and Families to develop recommendations for how best to create a separate children and families department.
“Of all the resources we have in the state of Washington, our children are by far the most precious. But while we have entire state agencies dedicated to priorities like Natural Resources, Revenue, and Transportation, we do not have a department specifically dedicated to our children,” Inslee said. “Today, we are beginning the process to change that.”
A separate children’s department has the potential to promote greater accountability, heighten the visibility of children’s issues, reduce barriers to improving practice, and advance children’s priorities through an independent budget and direct access to the state executive.
“I’ve worked with children and families for my entire career and this transition is an important next step for Washington to truly improve lives of children and families,” said POC executive director, Benjamin de Haan. “I look forward to following the process and offering any insights along the way.”
The proposal of a separate children’s department in Washington State has been introduced legislatively and studied extensively. In fact, the state’s Joint Task Force on Administration and Delivery of Services to Children and Families issued a majority report in 2007 recommending a separate children’s department as the best way to serve the citizens of Washington State. Yet, there was never enough traction to make this recommendation a reality.
Washington will join several other jurisdictions that have made this same change in recent years. While difficult to draw causation at this point in time, initial reports from child welfare advocates in these states and cities indicate improvements in child welfare outcomes correlating with these transitions. In our conversations with a handful of these advocates, the separation must be coupled with effective leadership and a strong focus on prevention and family preservation as a means to create a meaningful shift in outcomes for children and their families.
We applaud Governor Inslee for making this move. We are confident it will help make the difference we all wish to see: improved services and better outcomes for children and families in Washington State.
Read more about POC’s stance in our 2016 policy brief: A Separate Children’s Department in Washington State. You can also watch the press conference here.