The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Tuesday, December 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
In Our View/Finding Permanent Homes


Working to put children first

Legal services to ensure child welfare shouldn't be a political football. To paraphrase Hubert Humphrey, the moral test of government is how it treats those in the dawn of life. That moral test requires adequate funding and administrative support, and the responsibility for this rests with the state.
Finding a permanent home for a child after parental rights have been terminated is a can't-cut-corners mission. In Washington, the Department of Social and Health Services and the office of the Attorney General play an instrumental role. Unfortunately, the Attorney General's Legal Services Revolving Fund has been reduced from $79.9 million in 2008 to $62.7 million in the current biennium. The cost cutting included eliminating more than 20 attorneys from the Attorney General's Children's Litigation Division in 2010. The chopping has had a ripple effect, accelerating office turnover and, with its paltry salaries, offering little incentive to attract qualified applicants.
Just in the past biennium, the turnover in the Children's Litigation Division has been nearly 33 percent. The Attorney General's office notes that in one regional office alone, four out of six staff attorneys have served less than one year. For abused and abandoned children, inconsistent staffing and a longer wait for a permanent home only compounds their misery.
The funding shortfall will be tested as DSHS' Children's Administration works on a "permanency push" to move more than 400 additional children to permanent placement over the next six months. It's a laudable goal, but it will balloon the AG's Children's Litigation Division workload by 50 percent.
DSHS Secretary Kevin Quigley and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are working in concert to improve the process. In November, Ferguson organized a meeting with both offices, along with representatives from the courts and the Office of Public Defense to brainstorm strategies for handling the uptick. On Dec. 18, Ferguson and Quigley wrote legislators to underscore the need for additional resources.
"The key to successfully addressing the magnitude of the challenge of ensuring permanency for children who are waiting in the care of the state will be the state's ability to maintain a sufficient number of experienced assistant attorneys general and required legal support," they write. "We frankly cannot see a path to success that does not include the legal resources to file, litigate and resolve cases."
Ferguson and Quigley have requested funding contained in Gov. Jay Inslee's proposed supplemental budget. The $4.1 million ask isn't a matter of debate. Placing in permanent homes children who've suffered neglect and abuse is a calling that transcends politics. It goes to the heart of a society's responsibility to its most vulnerable.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...

Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to letters@heraldnet.com, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at cmacpherson@heraldnet.com or 425-339-3472.

HeraldNet highlights

Wolf population growing
Wolf population growing: Chief concern about more wolves: Livestock attacks
Richard Sherman 2.0
Richard Sherman 2.0: Seahawks' star cornerback is equally effective with less bravado
Playing with all they have
Playing with all they have: Highland Christian girls compete, inspire with just 5 players
$800K in scholarships, so far
$800K in scholarships, so far: Monroe High's Chloe Cook expects she’ll still need a job
SnoCoSocial