Friday, May 8, 2009

Child Welfare Turmoil

Two government reports came out this week responding to chronic complaints about the state child welfare office in Colville, a town of 5,000 in northeast Washington. 
The reports are disheartening reading for anyone who cares about protecting vulnerable kids and their families. 
The title of the first says it all: Loss of Trust: A Crisis of Confidence in the Child Welfare System in Colville.  It's a report by Mary Meinig, director of the state's Office of the Family & Children's Ombudsman. Her office spent almost a year investigating after state Rep. Joel Kretz raised concerns about how that office was handling child abuse cases.
The 86-page report cites cases in which child welfare workers "did not comply with law or policy." But even more troubling was "a culture of pervasive distrust" between child welfare staff and medical, legal and community professionals.
The result? Delays in investigations, foster kids moved unnecessarily and children caught in the middle of adult power struggles.
Read the report to find out what Meinig recommends -- starting with making the adults sort out their disputes in mediation. And giving foster parents more voice in what happens to the kids they take in.
The second report is an internal investigation of the Colville mess by the Children's Administration of the Department of Social and Health Services. Officials admit there's been a "systemic lack of communication and cooperation" and are working on a solution.
Let's hope so. For the sake of the kids.
(Photo: by abkfenris)

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