This month both Patrick Dowd from the Office of the Family and Children's Ombuds and I testified in a House committee about hotel stays. You can see our testimony here. The Ombuds has severely criticized the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) for several years about this problem, which has grown during that time. He’s right, and the media are right for exposing the terrible experiences that the children involved have.
In September I asked the child welfare policy team to propose a solution by the end of 2020. Their report is available here.
The problem we face in solving it is complex. Part of the solution is our work – making practice changes – and we’re engaged with that. The key step is having additional placement capacity to care for children who face very severe challenges with their behavioral health, a developmental disability, a substance use disorder, or all three. The team also recommended some steps for the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) to take.
While the number of children and youth who experience these exceptional placements is small compared to the overall number in out-of-home care, these children and youth have complex needs that are not easily met and require significant resources.
The workgroup’s recommendations included:
- More behavioral health treatment beds – these are called “CLIP” beds.
- More DDA beds, and a change in the behavior of the DDA to ensure high needs children with no history of child abuse or neglect are served by the DDA system, and not by child welfare.
- Expand the definition of “relative” in RCW 74.15.020(2) to include suitable others, which would widen the availability of placement resources.
- Coordinate with county detention centers to coordinate releases of youth that are unlikely to be able to return home. We will also need to develop housing resources for these young people.
This work requires funding, support from our partners, and buy-in from stakeholders. I am working with my peers at the Department of Social and Health Services and the Washington State Health Care Authority to coordinate this work. We recently released the report to the Legislature and will work with them on solutions as well as provide updates on this important work.