Secretary Newsletter - July

July 20, 2020
Multiracial family sits closely together on a sofa and smiles.

Read the full July Secretary Newsletter.

DCYF Budget Update

This month's message is about how the state budget affects DCYF, and about what you can expect from us over the next few months. Tax revenue expectations are down significantly given the impact of the pandemic on a state almost completely dependent on sales tax revenue. Washington has one of the worst and most regressive tax codes in the country, with disproportionate impacts on low income families. Worse still, it’s very volatile in reaction to reductions in consumer spending, like we are seeing today.

DCYF faces large exposure to changes in the state budget due to the revenue shortfall. We are taking actions to preserve our ability to deliver core services now and in the future.

  • Some of our core strategic efforts are resulting in lower costs, savings that count in the budget equation. For example, we have 15% fewer children in foster care than we did a year ago. This is better for children, and it significantly reduces our foster care maintenance payment budget. A lot of hard work went into this.
  • Governor Inslee vetoed hundreds of millions in new items in the budget he signed earlier this year, while leaving some key investments for us in place. In addition, he mandated the furloughs and elimination of automatic wage increases for our higher paid staff, saving additional money. This has a painful impact on our staff and I know he did not want to take this step.
  • DCYF is delaying the start of many new items in our budget that would have started July 1. These are mainly the items we included in our 15% reduction scenarios that don’t require legislative action. We expect to start these in September, but want to allow the Legislature time to make adjustments based on the new revenue picture.

Our intention is to stay focused on improving outcomes for children, youth and families. Core social service workers in Child Welfare and Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR) workers with a caseload were exempted from the furloughs, as it would cost more to pay overtime to replace them than we would save. The agency made investments to preserve direct service capability in child care settings with a number of administrative actions, and we shifted funds to preserve as much of the service-providing infrastructure for in-home services, like home visiting or counseling.

We’re working with leaders in the Legislature and the Office of Financial Management (OFM) and the Governor’s office to make smart decisions that allow us to continue our work protecting children and strengthening families.

DCYF Child Welfare Program Improvement Plan is Approved 

On June 19, 2020, DCYF’s revised Program Improvement Plan (PIP) was approved and finalized by the Federal Children’s Bureau. The plan details the agency’s child welfare approach to improving safety, permanency and well-being outcomes for children and families, as well as significantly reducing the number of children in out-of-home care.

Throughout this process, DCYF engaged with various stakeholders, including staff, external partners, leadership, tribes, parents, youth, judicial officers, the Administrative Office of the Courts and caregivers statewide to provide feedback in problem identification, root cause analysis and the development of goals, strategies and activities. The PIP also incorporates feedback received from federal partners.

The agency worked with the Children’s Bureau to develop this PIP. An initial proposal was submitted in May 2019, and in June 2020, negotiations were finalized to meet the required expectations to address the performance areas identified in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR). 

Read more. 

ECEAP Continues Serving Families During the Pandemic

Everyone in Washington State was affected when COVID-19 shut down all but our most essential services. Some of the hardest hit were the 14,000 Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) preschool children and their families. Already some of the furthest from opportunity in our state, ECEAP families found themselves suddenly without food, facing barriers to services they rely on and other crucial family support services that many families considered a lifeline. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, ECEAP contractors and sites continued individualized services to these families, working in partnership with school district staff to provide emergency child care and food distribution services when possible.

All 390 ECEAP sites, including the sites that maintained open classrooms throughout the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, were required to provide robust modified services to children and families who did not attend classroom services on-site daily. Contractor staff completely shifted their efforts to meet the complex needs families were suddenly facing. They produced more food and provided relevant health, parenting, mental health, engaging educational supports and COVID-19 resources to families who were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 closures.

Here are several examples of the engaging, vital and customized services families have received from ECEAP staff across the state:

State Employee Furloughs 

In response to the economic impacts of COVID-19, Governor Inslee issued a directive last month announcing the need to furlough some state employees.

The directive requires a majority of DCYF staff to take one furlough day per week through July 25, and one furlough day per month beginning August 1 through November 30.

DCYF is taking an agencywide approach for the weekly furlough days in July. The majority of DCYF staff will be furloughed on the following days in July:

  • Thursday, July 2 (Friday, July 3 was a holiday)
  • Friday, July 10
  • Friday, July 17
  • Friday, July 24