Inslee budget expected to address proposed new Department of Children, Youth and Families

120116bThe governor’s budget proposal due out next week is also supposed to address the unanimous recommendation from his Blue Ribbon Commission to form a new Department of Children, Youth and Families.

The recommendation has been the subject of several interim legislative committee hearings in November and last week.

The proposed new agency would bring Children’s Administration, Juvenile Rehabilitation and the Office of Juvenile Justice out of the Department of Social and Health Services and into the new agency. Also proposed to come over the new agency would be the Department of Early Learning’s prevention/early intervention services, early learning programs and childcare licensing.

The Children’s Administration and Early Learning programs would move over on July 1, 2018. The Juvenile Rehabilitation and Office of Juvenile Justice functions would move over in July 2019.

The idea is simply to have a state agency focused on services to abused, neglected and at-risk youth.

Micah Kurtz, a Local 843 member in King County and a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission, told a House Committee last week that there is a lot of skepticism about the new agency and “fear of losing what we have.”

But fear has turned to hope in many ways, he said.

“I recognized that this is an incredible opportunity,” Kurtz told the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee Dec. 1. “This is a chance to do proactive, preventative work in ways that we just haven’t had before.”

So the governor’s budget proposal due next week and expected robust debate in the 2017 Legislature is still to come.

It’s clear that no reorganization will be effective unless we stabilize the workforce that is losing employees at a rapid rate. That means we need better pay, lower caseloads and more supportive management. Bluntly, we can’t improve outcomes for kids, regardless of the structure, if we can’t hire and retain skilled employees. That point is emphasized on page 42 of the Blue Ribbon Commission report (see link below).

More background:

• The Blue Ribbon Commission was created by an executive order from the governor in February:

• You can view the full report adopted Nov. 8 here: