S-1782.2          _______________________________________________


                            SUBSTITUTE SENATE BILL 5749



State of Washington              52nd Legislature             1991 Regular Session


By Senate Committee on Children & Family Services (originally sponsored by Senators Roach and Rasmussen).


Read first time March 6, 1991.Creating a citizen oversight board for cases involving children.

     AN ACT Relating to citizen oversight boards for child welfare cases; creating new sections; making an appropriation; and providing an expiration date.




     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 1.      The legislature recognizes the importance of quality assurance and accountability in the provision of services to children and their families.  The legislature intends to create a citizen oversight board system that will function in an advisory capacity to the department of social and health services and the legislature, providing recommendations for improvement in the quality of case management in any type of children's service provided by the department.  The purposes of a citizen oversight board are to:

     (1) Review a representative sampling of cases involving children, in a manner that complies with any applicable case review requirements and time lines imposed by federal laws pertaining to child welfare services;

     (2) Evaluate the quality of case handling of children and their families provided by the department in order to make recommendations to the department and the legislature; and

     (3) Provide a means for state-wide community involvement in monitoring cases of children receiving services from the department of social and health services.


     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 2.      Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the definitions in this section apply throughout sections 1 through 9 of this act.

     (1) "Board" means the state-wide citizen oversight board established under section 3 of this act.

     (2) "Child" means a person younger than eighteen years old.

     (3) "Conflict of interest" means that a person appointed to the board has a personal or pecuniary interest in a case being reviewed by the board.

     (4) "Department" means the department of social and health services.

     (5) "Records" means any information in written form, pictures, photographs, charts, graphs, recordings, or documents pertaining to a case.


     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 3.      (1) The state-wide citizen oversight board is created.

     (2) The board shall be composed of seven members appointed as follows:

     (a) Three members shall be appointed by the chair of the senate committee on children and family services;

     (b) Three members shall be appointed by the chair of the house of representatives committee on human services;

     (c) One member shall be appointed by the secretary of the department or the secretary's designee.

     (3) A simple majority shall constitute a quorum.

     (4) Board members shall serve two-year terms, except that if a vacancy occurs, a successor shall be appointed to serve the unexpired term.  The terms of the initial members shall be staggered.  A member shall be limited to two terms unless there are insufficient volunteers to replace the member.

     (5) The board shall elect annually from its membership a chair, and a vice-chair to serve in the absence of the chair.

     (6) Nonlegislative members of the board shall be reimbursed for travel expenses as provided in RCW 43.03.050 and 43.03.060.  Legislative members shall be reimbursed for travel expenses as provided for in RCW 44.04.120.


     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 4.      The following guidelines shall be used in appointing members to the board:

     (1) Members of the board shall represent various socioeconomic, ethnic, and geographical areas served;

     (2) A person who has had a child or foster child who has been the subject of a complaint or other dispute resolution with the department within the last three years may not serve on the board;

     (3) Board members shall be of good character and shall demonstrate the understanding, ability, and judgment necessary to carry out the duties under section 8 of this act;

     (4) No member may currently be a social services or child care provider, a foster or adoptive parent, a family law attorney, a legislative advocate, or a person contracting with or employed by the department with the exception of the one member appointed by the department.


     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 5.      Before beginning to serve on the board, each member shall sign an affidavit affirming that the member will keep confidential the information reviewed by the board and its actions and recommendations arising from individual cases.  A board member who violates this section is subject to dismissal from the board and other penalties as provided by law.


     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 6.      The board shall have access to the following information unless disclosure is otherwise specifically prohibited by law, including federal law regarding confidentiality of children's records:

     (1) Records of the court that are pertinent to the case or matter under review;

     (2) Records of the department pertaining to the matter under review; and

     (3) Records submitted to the department by another agency or entity  that pertain to the matter under review.


     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 7.      The department and any other department or agency directly involved in the matter under review shall, at its discretion, when deemed necessary for a reasonable understanding of the case, require the employee who has primary case responsibility to attend the review.  If the employee's attendance is deemed necessary, and the employee is unable to attend the review, another employee who has knowledge of the case shall attend the review.


     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 8.      (1) If a member of the board has a potential conflict of interest in a case being reviewed, the member shall declare to the board the nature of the potential conflict before participating in the case review.  The declaration of the member shall be recorded in the official records of the board and disclosed to all parties participating in the review.  If, in the judgment of the majority of the board, the potential conflict of interest may prevent the member from fairly and objectively reviewing the case, the board may excuse the member from participation in the review.

     The board shall retain accurate records of the matter under review, and shall retain verbatim records of board reviews.

     (2) The board may disclose information to participants in the board review of a case.  Before participating in a board review, each participant shall swear or affirm to the board that the participant will keep information disclosed by the board in the case review confidential and disclose it only as authorized by law.

     (3) Members of the board are immune from liability in any civil action pertaining to recommendations made under this chapter.


     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 9.      The purpose of reviewing individual cases of children and their families is that the board may make recommendations to the department and the legislature concerning suggested changes in policies, procedures, and laws.


     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 10.     The sum of forty-nine thousand dollars, or as much thereof as may be necessary, is appropriated for the biennium ending June 30, 1993, from the general fund for the purposes of this act.


     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 11.     This act shall expire June 30, 1993.