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TWENTY-THIRD DAY, FIRST SPECIAL SESSION
Senate Chamber, Olympia, Tuesday, June 3, 2003
The Senate was called to order at 12:00 noon by President Owen. No roll call was taken.
On motion of Senator Swecker, the reading of the Journal of the previous day was dispensed with and it was approved.
MESSAGES FROM STATE OFFICES
STATE OF WASHINGTON
OFFICE OF THE FAMILY AND CHILDREN’S OMBUDSMAN
6720 Fort Dent Way, Suite 240
Tukwila, Washington 98188
May 20, 2003
To the Residents of Washington State:
I am pleased to present the Year 2002 Report of the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman.
Last year was marked by a significant change at the Ombudsman. After serving nearly six years as the Ombudsman’s first director, Vickie Wallen left her post in July, 2002, to care for her new son. Under Ms. Wallen’s leadership, the Ombudsman achieved a high degree of credibility and respect among our diverse range of stakeholders, including DSHS service recipients, legislators, community professionals, child and family advocates, agency workers, and the public. You can be assured that we at the Ombudsman will continue working hard to maintain the credibility and respect earned during Ms. Wallen’s tenure.
The year also encompassed a tremendous amount of activity. Last year, the Ombudsman received a record number of complaints. The increase in complaints is not unusual. Over the past five years, our work of responding to inquiries and investigating complaints has accelerated dramatically. Inquires made by families and citizens have more that doubled, while the number of complaints filed with our office has increased ninety percent.
Responding effectively to the dramatic increase in workload has been one of our biggest challenges in recent years. Because the Ombudsman has not been fully staffed since 2001, this challenge has been especially daunting. However, we are implementing significant work-process efficiencies and making extra effort to maintain a high level of responsiveness to those who contact our office.
Although slowed by the lack of a permanent director, our work on systemic issues continues. Several safety-improvement recommendations contained in the Ombudsman’s 2001 Report on the Washington School for the Deaf were adopted by the 2002 Legislature. In addition, the 2002 Legislature convened a work group and considered legislation that responded to concerns raised in several Ombudsman reports about the state’s inadequate response to repeated reports of child neglect. Our investigation of DSHS’ process for reviewing the fatalities of children served by Child Protective and Child Welfare Services continues. We hope to complete it within the next year.
Before closing, I want to acknowledge the contributions of Rosie Oreskovich to our state. As the Assistant Secretary of the DSHS Children’s Administration, Ms. Oreskovich devoted virtually all of her time and energy to strengthening the system that serves abused and neglected children and their families. Her unexpected death earlier this year brings not only sadness, but a sense of deep loss among those of us who know of her life-long commitment to helping vulnerable children and families. Rosie’s remarkable life of public service is an inspiration.
On behalf of all of us at the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman, I want to thank you for your interest in our work. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to serve as a voice for the families and children of Washington State.
MARY MEINIG, Acting Director Ombudsman
The 2002 Annual Report from the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman is on file in the Office of the Secretary of the Senate.
WASHINGTON STATE AUDITOR’S OFFICE
Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
IN-HOME CHILD CARE PROVIDERS IN MATTAWA, WASHINGTON
In September, 2002, the State Auditor’s Office learned that the Division of Fraud investigations in the Department of Social and Health Services was investigating fifty in-home child care providers in Mattawa, Washington. We reviewed the preliminary results of the Division’s investigation to determine the cause of the significant issues identified.
The Division had subpoenaed the records of all fifty providers. We reviewed the records from seven of those providers in detail; we also reviewed the Division’s investigatory procedures and preliminary results. The Division’s investigation found that attendance documentation was insufficient to support payments to providers; that providers did not meet documentation requirements relating to health and safety requirements; and that providers gave false information on application forms. At that time, we also verified that the families whose children were receiving care were eligible for the child care program.
Based on work we performed in 2002, we concluded there were weakness in payment monitoring procedures for the Seasonal Child Care Program. In February 2003, we reported these weaknesses in Finding Number 02-01C in the State Accountability Report for fiscal year 2002 and in Finding Number 02-8 in the State of Washington Single Audit Report.
Since that time, we have performed additional work and have determined that some providers gave false information regarding their identities during the application process. We further reviewed the available attendance records and found that, in addition to being insufficient to support payments, some had been falsified.
We planned to discuss the weaknesses identified in our review of the subpoenaed records with the licensor responsible for monitoring these providers. We requested this interview through the licensor’s supervisor, who later informed us that the licensor declined to be interviewed.
We then evaluated monitoring reports completed by this licensor for thirteen providers to determine whether the licensor properly recorded and followed up on documentation weaknesses we had identified in our review.
As a result of the falsified information on application and background inquiry forms, falsified and missing attendance records, and other missing provider documents, we are questioning the payment of an estimated $2 million in federal funds to these fifty providers. These provider payments were charged to federal funds in the Child Care Development Fund-Discretionary during the time period reviewed. This condition was caused by weak or non-existent internal controls over the application and monitoring processes. These control weaknesses are in addition to the payment monitoring weaknesses identified in our earlier reports.
Because of the serious nature of these issues, we sent an official letter to the Department’s Director of Child Care and Early Leaning to provide early notification of the significant issues identified in the investigation. We will rely on the Division of Fraud Investigations to forward evidence in this case to the Grant County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for any action deemed appropriate under the circumstances.
The Washington State Auditor’s Office Special Investigation of the Department of Social and Health Services fifty in-home care providers in Mattawa, Washington, is on file in the Office of the Secretary of the Senate.
INTRODUCTION AND FIRST READING
SB 6084 by Senators Esser, Reardon, Rossi, Prentice, Horn, Fairley and Finkbeiner
AN ACT Relating to utility relocation costs; and adding a new section to chapter 81.112 RCW.
SB 6085 by Senator Esser
AN ACT Relating to assuring that the rights of way of limited access facilities accommodate the deployment of personal wireless service facilities; and amending RCW 47.52.001.
SB 6086 by Senators Honeyford, Esser, Finkbeiner and Mulliken
AN ACT Relating to unemployment insurance; and creating a new section.
On motion of Senator Swecker, Senate Bill No. 6084, Senate Bill No. 6085 and Senate Bill No. 6086 were held at the desk.
At 12:02 p.m., on motion of Senator Swecker, the Senate adjourned until 12:00 noon, Wednesday, June 4, 2003.
BRAD OWEN, President of the Senate
MILTON H. DOUMIT, Secretary of the Senate