Yesterday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee took an historic step to improve the lives of young people in our state. The governor issued an executive order to begin the process of creating a Department of Children and Families in our state. Such a change would ensure that Governor Inslee, and future Washington governors, hear frequently and directly about issues affecting our most vulnerable children and families.
In taking this bold action, the governor is hoping to correct a decades-old dynamic where the needs of children and families receive insufficient attention because of the many competing priorities at the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
Currently, Children’s Administration, which oversees Washington’s child welfare system as well as many of the state’s homeless youth services, is one of seven administrations within DSHS. As a result, despite the best intentions of the leaders and front-line workers at DSHS, many issues related to children and families have gone unaddressed and problems have gone unresolved.
For many years, experts, legislators, and other stakeholders have advocated for the creation of a Department of Children and Families to help overcome longstanding culture, practice, budget, and policy challenges that result in less-than-optimal outcomes for our families and youth. The establishment of such a department won’t be a silver bullet, and how it is implemented will be important, but our state can no longer afford not to prioritize the urgent challenges facing children and families.
Whenever a Washington governor convenes his or her cabinet, the needs of young people should always be at the table. Governor Inslee’s action helps ensure they will be.