Washington state lawmakers are negotiating a final budget for the next two years. Among the items being discussed:
“ Childrens’ Advocacy Centers: $1.4 million to start setting up child-friendly, one-stop centers for forensic exams and interviews of children, to avoid the stress of repeated investigations.
“ 30-day visits: Ensuring that child welfare workers have face-to-face contact with children, parents or caregivers every month by the end of 2008. Estimated cost is $4.6 million to $10 million.
“ Improving social workers’ interview skills and interactions with families: $1.6 million to provide training to social workers in the field, in addition to $3.7 million more for classroom-style training. The curriculum, according to a Senate budget proposal, “builds upon evidence-based practices to reduce repeat cases of abuse and neglect.”
“ Kinship Care: An additional $1.5 million to $2 million for support services to children placed with relatives other than their parents. By expanding the search for qualified relatives willing to care for the children, the state estimates that it will save more than $5 million over two years.
“ Help preserving families: $1.6 million to replace lost federal cash for “Intensive Family Preservation Services” programs. The services are designed to reduce the likelihood that children will be removed from their own homes, abused, or neglected.
“ Indian Child Welfare program: $1.8 million more, in addition to base funding of $5 million.
“ Expanded services for parents at risk of losing their children: $10 million. This would expand counseling, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, domestic violence help, temporary child care and transportation for families struggling to stay together, if the families cannot afford the services.
“ New child-tracking computer system: $3.8 million to $15.2 million toward an overhaul of the computer system used by child protection caseworkers to track kids and manage their health and education needs.
“ Children’s mental health care: $16 million.