Issue Position: Strengthening Families
Governor Chris Gregoire's passion for child welfare and care for the vulnerable has guided her throughout her career. Her first job out of law school was in Spokane, working to protect children from abuse. Protecting and providing for Washington's most vulnerable citizens, regardless of age, continues to be a priority for Governor Gregoire. Changes made under her administration aim to assist families, rehabilitate substance abusers and care for the mentally ill.
Caring for vulnerable children
Governor Gregoire believes every child deserves to grow up in a safe home. Governor Gregoire in 2005 mandated faster response times to investigate suspected child abuse or neglect cases and more frequent home visits for children in open dependency cases. To ensure these new workload standards are met, Governor Gregoire allocated new funding to hire additional caseworkers. She also increased funding for services to the 8,000 children living in foster or group care and increased assistance to families who adopt special-needs foster children.
Governor Gregoire is actively monitoring the Department of Social and Health Services implementation of the Safe Kids, Healthy Families reform agenda for the state's child protective and child welfare services.
Governor Gregoire fundamentally believes that parents have a responsibility to take care of their children and that hard work should be rewarded. In 2006, she increased funding to the WorkFirst program and made significant changes to how the program operates, ensuring it can break the cycle of poverty. She also ensured that childcare subsidies continue for parents seeking safe care for their children while they look for work.
Governor Gregoire implemented a recommendation from her WorkFirst Reexamination Group that all parents receiving WorkFirst grants agree to participate in the program and accept employment if they are able to work. She ordered new efforts be made to steer non-compliant parents into jobs.
Supporting mental health care
When federal funding cuts threatened community mental health services in our state, Governor Gregoire added $80 million to the state budget so these important services continue. She also expanded inpatient capacity at state mental hospitals to meet growing demand for evaluation and treatment services.
Start-up funding, allocated by Governor Gregoire, will expand outpatient treatment and service capacity and help divert some clients from more expensive mental hospital care. The state will also develop an integrated mental health and chemical dependency screening and assessment process by January 1, 2007. Governor Gregoire applied for and won one of the seven federal Mental Health System Transformation planning grants and Washington's five-year system transformation project began in October 2005.
Supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and their families
Governor Gregoire's Autism Task Force is studying the growing incidence of autism and ways to improve the delivery and coordination of related services. Their report will help Governor Gregoire make sound decisions on how the state can best respond to the needs of autistic children and their families.
Governor Gregoire launched a pilot program targeted to help low-income families with developmentally disabled children and will have a report complete by December 2006 with recommendations on how to improve family support programs.
Governor Gregoire signed a state budget increasing the Washington Housing Trust Fund to record levels to build more affordable housing for homeless veterans, homeless families with children, people with developmental disabilities, domestic violence victims, farm workers and other vulnerable families.
Governor Gregoire used an executive order to create the Interagency Council on Homelessness to develop a ten-year state plan to address homelessness. Under her leadership, the Department of Social and Health Service's Mental Health Division is also undertaking a study to determine ways to provide more supportive residential care options for individuals with chronic serious mental illnesses.
Supporting families in need
Governor Gregoire and Legislators in 2006 worked together to quickly boost to the state's utility assistance program to help low-income families pay high heating bills. Governor Gregoire also doubled the availability of alcohol and drug abuse treatment services, and expanded funding to provide post-traumatic stress disorder treatment to veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Her health care agenda also addresses the physical and mental health needs of Washington families.
Moving Washington Forward
Governor Gregoire is implementing a pilot program in seven communities that encourages low-income individuals and families to save through Individual Development Accounts that are matched with some state funds. Under Governor Gregoire's leadership, Washington is one of six states that have established a workgroup to assess ways to assist youth with disabilities to successfully transition to independent adulthood.