As the 2013 legislative session approaches, I urge legislators to begin restoring funding to child welfare programs. Children and families deserve to live safe and healthy lives – as a family. I have been involved in the child welfare system in Thurston County for more than six years, and have witnessed many opportunities to help families who are working to become the parents that their children deserve.
The Great Recession has not only put more stresses on families who were already living under stress, it has reduced the ability for the community to provide assistance to these families. As we begin to recover economically and move forward, state legislators are faced with difficult choices about which programs to restore first.
Few parents intentionally abuse or neglect their children. They want to do the right thing, but whether due to mental health issues, substance abuse, the stressors of extreme poverty, or not having learned appropriate parenting skills from their own parents, it’s difficult for them to keep their children safe. Child welfare caseloads have risen significantly in recent years, due to worker layoffs and increased client need during the stress of the Recession.
While there is momentum to prioritize issues such as family assessment response, and reinvestment of state dollars saved back into child welfare services, increased resources for child welfare services (including providing greater resources for families and hiring additional well-qualified social workers) should also be a priority for the state Legislature.