Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spokesman Review Asks The Question... We Know The Answer

May 10, 2009 in Opinion
Our View: Is it just Colville with child welfare office problems?
The Spokesman-Review

The job of protecting children who are wards of the state can be confusing, contentious and highly subjective. Are children being properly raised? Are their emotional and physical needs being met? Is discipline needed? Is the choice or degree of discipline appropriate?

These are not easy decisions, but what ought to be obvious to all involved professionals is that the children’s interests are paramount. However, clashes are inevitable when foster families, school officials, health care providers, criminal justice personnel, court-appointed watchdogs and state case workers all have input.

Breakdowns in this coordinated effort are at the heart of the problem with the Washington Division of Children and Family Services regional office in Colville, according to two recently released reviews. One probe was conducted by the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman and another by the Department of Social and Health Services Children’s Administration.

Both found an erosion of confidence between community professionals and the state’s child welfare office. The ombudsman said this contentiousness was putting some children at risk. It hasn’t helped that attitudes became hardened after some infamous cases, chief among them the death of Tyler DeLeon, who succumbed to dehydration after long-term abuse by his adoptive mother.

The ombudsman’s report found instances where DCFS has not complied with state law or its own policies. Both reports highlight what appears to be the larger issue, which is general distrust. The Colville office, in particular, seems to be suffering from a fortress mentality, which has hurt communication and collaboration.

As one medical professional noted: “the level of trust has deteriorated to a level that I hesitate to even get involved with the child welfare system but certainly if the lines of communication were open and more productive, cooperation could certainly begin to happen again.”

Even workers within the Colville office noted difficulties in dealing with their supervisors.

To repair the damage, the ombudsman’s office recommends professional mediation for disputes and a diverse local advisory board to inject impartiality. Those are good starting points for the Colville office, but the state agency ought to consider whether these problems are also plaguing its other operations.


Anonymous said...

I find it easy to believe that even workers in the Colville office had trouble dealing with their supervisors. This fact would seem to contradict the ombudsman's report that there is a fortress mentality. The problem may be limited to a few bad apples. Unfortunately, since these bad apples are state employees, they are hard to get rid of.

infinite freedom said...

Senator, we need a low cost, high impact prevention program, in order to eradicate and correct the problems of this failed bureaucracy. Everything else is just a ploy.

Business as usual on this will be the death of us. We must work on this now.