Wednesday, June 17, 2009

OLYMPIAN Reports On New Director's Intentions

DSHS leader backs change to state foster care system

The Olympian | • Published June 17, 2009

New Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Susan N. Dreyfus told foster care experts Monday that she will embrace a 2004 lawsuit settlement as a way to improve the system.

It was encouraging to the panel, which recounted halting changes by the department under two previous leaders.

“I think we’ve had five years of starts and stops,” said Jess McDonald, who once headed Illinois’ child welfare system.

He is a member of the Braam Panel. It was created to oversee a settlement that called for improvements such as lower caseloads for social workers, more social worker visits to foster homes and faster checks on foster children’s educational and health needs.

“I see well-intentioned people try to move forward one step at a time. But what I don’t see is a commitment to using the Braam settlement as a way to move forward,” said Jan McCarthy, a mental health expert from Georgetown University.

A year ago, attorneys representing the state’s roughly 10,000 foster children complained the state was dragging its heels. A judge agreed with them and ordered the state to speed up improvements.

Dreyfus, who left a social service role in Wisconsin, said she considered the lawsuit before taking the Olympia job and agrees with its goals.

“What you will find with me is someone who is committed to seeing the implementation of this settlement,” she said. “Not because it’s a settlement, but because everything that’s in it is good for the children who come to the attention of the system. I would not argue with any of it.”

Panel members seemed pleased with her approach to changing the Children’s Administration, a division of her 19,000-employee agency.

“You bring an excitement and an enthusiasm that I hope permeates the whole organization by noon tomorrow,” McDonald said.

But they also said she faces more challenges than changing the bureaucracy. Panel chairman John Landsverk noted the recession makes it “an absolutely abysmal time from a budget prospective.”

Casey Trupin of Columbia Legal Services, representing the foster children in the case, asked Dreyfus to commit to improvements that could be proved, not “data spin.”

“They have to be permanent changes,” he said.


Anonymous said...

We need to take advantage of the budget crunch and challenge a few things that can be challenged right now.
At the Braam Panel hearing I recommended a new approach that I feel would help families a great deal while at the same time would cut the budget in half. I borrowed from a couple of different legal approaches to come up with this.
The first aspect is the Deferred Prosecution approach. In this, a family would have 12 months of treatment and monitoring and 12 months of once a month monitoring. I believe that all "neglect" cases could easily be done DP scheduling and qualified abuse cases as well. With this approach, the parent would agree to treatment and a type of DP then be able to engage in programming much faster. The start to finish time of getting the child back in the home would be greatly reduced.
The second aspect is what I saw in Drug Court. In Pierce County, case managers are right there in court meeting with clients in the back room. They quickly determine a case management path, have the clients sign a contract, then go into court with this contract.
I also complained about inadequate chemical dependency assessments where an individual should be in inpatient but they are given outpatient. This happens frequently when an outpatient program dependent on dollars does the assessment. I believe that an independent assessment agency should do the assessments.
Jan Smith

infinite freedom said...

With the attitude that nothing is really fundamentally wrong with this system, it can never get better. The CA lives in a fantasy world, where the social workers are the down trodden.

The pain and deaths of children and families does not exist in their enchanted utopia.

As long as the children and their families are silenced, their abuse by CA will not lessen.

No one can or will ever help the children in Washington State.

Child abuse and death by abuse by Washington State has gone on for so long that we have come to accept it as healthy and normal.

All we can do now is watch the children pray.