Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) Changes
We are three years past our creation moment as an agency. We have accomplished a lot, including working successfully during a worldwide pandemic, striving to keep our facilities safer than many places in the nation while maintaining a laser focus on our mission to help children, youth, and families thrive while we also work to keep them safe.
We are building on our child care infrastructure, we are focusing on a new service orientation, we are working to shift to community approaches to Juvenile Rehabilitation, emphasizing prevention, and we are implementing ambitious new legislation like the Fair Start for Kids Act and the Keeping Families Together Act. In all, despite challenges, we are creating progress in our efforts to meet the needs of children, youth, and families.
All of this has meant change. We have most definitely proven ourselves as capable and ready for adaptation and change, but we are not done. With a mission like ours, we cannot accept complacency in our continuing response to the needs of Washington’s youth and families. We will need to be nimbler and more decisive, and able to make decisions lower down in our organization to be successful in our ever-changing environment.
A few weeks ago, I introduced a shift in DCYF’s leadership structure to our staff as part of our work to integrate and streamline practices and center our work around our Strategic and Racial Equity Plan. Today, I want to share more details about the new teams that will support families in ways that keep them out of penetrating deeper into our system and help them improve their quality of life.
Prevention and Client Services
The new Prevention and Client Services team, headed by Assistant Secretary Steve Grilli, combines existing program groups: Adolescent Services, Home Visiting, Strengthening Families, and most of Child Welfare Programs.
We believe that helping families stay together is the most important thing we can do to make the world a better place. Our research-based service array will need to expand to serve the entire state and become consistently culturally competent. We want to use programs in home visiting like Nurse-Family Partnerships to help families before they come to Child Protective Services, not after. We want to divert families from formal court involvement to community-based programs that have strong histories of effectiveness.
Once children, youth, and families become involved with either Child Welfare or Juvenile Rehabilitation, we want to work to reunite them as quickly as possible. Our vision for our field practice depends on community services being available and working well. We need an adequate supply of Behavioral Rehabilitation Services providers and a Family Time visitation service that ensures caseworkers don’t have to drive for visits, taking them away from their social work.
Our work with adolescents can be particularly challenging as we help them navigate a complex world, often without strong support from home. Consistent availability of high-quality substance use disorder treatment, behavioral therapy, education, and housing resources is part of the new team’s mandate, which builds on the solid foundation of the Adolescent Program division and focuses on integration across the service continuum.
Getting our portfolio of services to work requires strong programs that integrate well with the rest of the agency.
The new Early Learning team is responsible for our mission to get every child in Washington ready for kindergarten. Combining related programs in one group allows a greater focus on providing integrated options for children and families. This team, headed by Assistant Secretary Nicole Rose, will bring together our child care work, quality improvement, professional development, subsidy programs, and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP).
We have enormous opportunities in this area, including a historic expansion of our child care subsidies for families as a result of the Fair Start for Kids Act, the required expansion of ECEAP to cover about a third of all low-income or at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds, and the challenges of dealing with the post-pandemic economy and the critical need for child care.
Bringing these strong teams together will help us communicate clearly with families so they receive consistent and coordinated information on their options for child care and early learning. We also will be able to communicate more clearly with providers and ensure coordination in the practice and support they receive.
The top-level changes in this transition take effect right away. I know this message will reach people who share and advocate for DCYF’s vision that all Washington’s children and youth will grow up safe and healthy, nurtured by family and community. Thank you for all that you do for the families we serve.