EHB 2008

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

As of February 25, 2018

Title: An act relating to the budgeting process for core state services for children.

Brief Description: Addressing the budgeting process for core state services for children.

Sponsors: Representatives Kagi, Jinkins and Senn.

Brief History: Passed House: 3/08/17, 61-36; 1/24/18, 63-34.

Committee Activity: Ways & Means: 3/29/17, 2/22/18.

Brief Summary of Bill

  • Directs the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), in consultation with the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), to develop a single validated tool to assess the care needs of foster children, including whether Behavioral Rehabilitation Services (BRS) should be provided.

  • Requires the Caseload Forecast Council to forecast the number of screened-in reports of child abuse or neglect and the number of children that require foster care-related services.

  • Establishes that the Children's Administration (CA) services that must be forecasted and funded in maintenance level of the budget are: (1) social worker and related staff to receive, refer, and respond to screened-in reports of child abuse or neglect; (2) court-ordered parent-child and sibling visitation; (3) BRS placements if and when DSHS implements a single validated assessment tool as developed by the WSIPP; and (4) foster care and adoption support services that are forecasted and funded in maintenance level under current practice.

  • Requires the CA (1) to review the availability and capacity of licensed foster homes in comparison to the foster care caseload as part of the 2018 Supplemental Operating Budget request process, and (2) to report its findings to the Office of Financial Management and the Legislature by October 1, 2017.


Staff: Maria Hovde (786-7474)

Background: Operating Budget. A two-year Biennial Operating Budget appropriates funding for the operation of state government and is adopted every odd-numbered year. Supplemental budgets frequently are enacted in each of the following two years after adoption of the biennial budget.

Budget decisions are often categorized as being either a maintenance level or a policy level decision. For the purposes of the four-year outlook, maintenance level has been defined to mean the estimated appropriations necessary to maintain the continuing costs of program and service levels either funded in the prior biennium or otherwise mandated by other state or federal law. Maintenance level items typically include adjustments for the forecasted changes in entitlement caseloads/enrollments and other mandatory expenses.

All other budget decisions are typically categorized as policy items. Examples include creating a new program, eliminating a current program, increasing or decreasing vendor or employee payment rates, expanding or contracting program eligibility, and expanding or contracting the value of services provided by a program.

DSHS and the CA. The CA is a program under DSHS with responsibilities that include:

Child Protective Services (CPS). Any person may call CPS to report potential cases of child abuse or neglect. Intake CPS staff determine whether a report meets the following criteria to screen-in for child abuse or neglect:

If the screening criteria are met, the intake workers refer the report for a CPS response. Screened-in reports are referred to one of two CPS pathways: (1) traditional investigation, or (2) Family Assessment Response (FAR). Both CPS pathways focus on child safety and include an intervention by a CPS worker who conducts a face-to-face visit with the child and family to assess how the family may be engaged in services and whether the child is safe in the home. Reports that the intake worker determines to be higher-risk for child safety are referred for 24-hour response and traditional investigation. Reports determined by the intake worker to be low to moderate risk are referred for 72-hour response and may be referred for either an investigation or FAR.

Temporary Out-of-Home Placements. If the CPS social worker who responds to the report determines that the child is unsafe in the home, the child may be removed and placed in a temporary out-of-home placement until the child can return to the home safely or be placed in another safe and permanent living arrangement. There are multiple types of temporary out-of-home placements including licensed family foster care, relative or kin placements, and Behavioral Rehabilitation Services (BRS).

Licensed Family Foster Care. Licensed foster families receive monthly maintenance payments for the costs of caring for a child. Family foster care rates vary by the child's age and whether the child requires higher levels of nonroutine caretaking, as determined by a standardized rate assessment tool. On a case-by-case basis, the CA may enter into exceptional cost plans with foster families to provide rates that exceed the regular rates. Family foster homes may be licensed by the CA Division of Licensed Resources or through contracted child-placing agencies.

BRS. BRS is designed to be a temporary, intensive service that utilizes a wraparound service approach for youth with high-level behavioral, medical, or mental health issues. Most BRS youth are served in out-of-home placements in congregate care settings or with specially trained foster families; it may also be provided as an in-home service. Contracted vendors provide BRS at monthly all-inclusive rates. On a case-by-case basis, the CA may enter into child-specific contracts with BRS vendors to provide rates that exceed the regular rate table. Regional CA BRS managers act as the gatekeepers for BRS referrals.

Two assessments are currently used for children in BRS. The Children's Functional Assessment Rating Scale must be completed by the BRS vendor for most youth within 14 days of BRS entry and within 30 days of exiting BRS. The Wraparound with Intensive Services screen is completed upon BRS referral and every six months during the youth's BRS stay to determine if the youth's needs could be met with in-home wraparound mental health services in place of BRS.

Visitation. Children in temporary out-of-home placements receive visitation with their parents and siblings when the court determines visitation to be in the best interest of the child. Visits may be provided by contracted visitation vendors, CA social workers, or other appropriate persons. The level of supervision, frequency, and duration of visitation is determined by the court and often reflects recommendations of the child's CA social worker.

Caseload Forecast Council (CFC). The CFC is a state agency charged with preparing official state forecasts of the number of persons expected to meet entitlement requirements and to require the services of certain public assistance programs, including foster care, adoption support, the prison population, K-12 students, Medicaid, and other specified programs. The CFC itself consists of two individuals appointed by the Governor, and four individuals, one of whom is appointed by the chairperson of each of the two largest political caucuses in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Budgeting Processes for CA Services. Funding for some CA services are adjusted annually in maintenance level of the budget on the basis of actual and forecasted caseloads and per-capita costs. These include:

Funding for BRS and for visitation services was adjusted in maintenance level through the forecast process until the 2009-11 Biennial Budget and 2010 Supplemental Budget, respectively, when the Legislature chose to begin treating all funding changes for these items as discrete policy decisions. Funding for staff, including CPS workers, is a discrete policy decision made by the Legislature.

WSIPP. The WSIPP is a nonpartisan entity that conducts research and benefit-cost analyses at the direction of the Legislature.

Summary of Bill: The WSIPP, in consultation with DSHS, must develop a single validated tool to assess the care needs of foster children. Once the tool is available statewide, DSHS must use it to assess the care needs of foster children, including but not limited to, whether DSHS must provide BRS. DSHS must notify the CFC, Office of Financial Management, and the appropriate legislative committees when it begins statewide use of the tool.

The CFC forecast of the foster care caseload is revised to include BRS and court-ordered visitations. In addition, the CFC must forecast the number of reports screened in for child abuse or neglect.

The following foster care and adoption support services must be budgeted in maintenance level:

  1. Those that are currently treated as maintenance level costs, including but not limited to:

    1. foster care maintenance payments;

    2. child-placing agency management fees;

    3. child care for children in foster care or relative placements when their foster parents are at work or school;

    4. child aides for children in foster care;

    5. support goods for children in foster care; and

    6. adoption support and other adoption-related expenses.

  2. Certain specified items not currently treated as maintenance level, including:

    1. court-ordered parent-child and sibling visitation;

    2. social worker and related staff to receive, refer, and respond to screened-in reports of child abuse or neglect; and

    3. BRS placements, only if DSHS uses a single validated assessment tool statewide to determine care needs and BRS referrals.

The CA must, as part of its 2018 Supplemental Operating Budget request, review the most recent caseload forecast of children in foster care and the availability and capacity of licensed foster homes. The review shall include:

The CA must submit the results of its review to the Office of Financial Management and appropriate committees of the Legislature no later than October 1, 2017.

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available.

Creates Committee/Commission/Task Force that includes Legislative members: No.

Effective Date: Ninety days after adjournment of session in which bill is passed.

Staff Summary of Public Testimony: PRO: Having visitation be part of the foster care forecast is essential to ensuring more predictability and reliability in funds to support visitation in order to increase the opportunities for reunification and lead to shorter stays in foster care. BRS children have behavioral issues that cannot be addressed through regular foster care. Development of an assessment tool is long overdue. Returning these caseloads to the forecast will stabilize funding and ensure that actual data is collected and evaluated. BRS and parent-child visitation are an integral part of foster care and BRS was part of the forecast until 2009. It is unclear why some things are or are not forecasted in the foster care system. Without a forecast, it is difficult for the department to plan for appropriate service delivery.

Persons Testifying: PRO: Seth Dawson, Washington Association for Children & Families; Laurie Lippold, Partners for Our Children; Cynthia Munoz, citizen.

Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying: No one.