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April 17, 2009 3:12 PM

Measure to revamp child-welfare system by privatizing some of its functions passes Senate

Posted by Jennifer Sullivan

Washington is one step closer to increasing the role of private agencies in working with children and families involved in the state child welfare system.

On Thursday night the Senate approved an amendment to a Children's Administration bill, House Bill 2106, that would establish a pilot project in which the state would hire private contractors to work with children and troubled families after verified complaints of abuse or neglect and the first dependency court hearing.

Contractors would be held to performance standards, which have not yet been developed. If an agency doesn't make the grade it would lose its contract.

Under the proposal, the first pilot programs would be launched statewide July 2012. After 2 1/2 years the Washington State Institute for Public Policy would provide an evaluation of the pilot programs to the governor, who would then decide whether to expand or terminate the program.

The proposal ultimately could impact thousands of families and force hundreds of state workers out of jobs. The opposition has mainly been from the Washington Federation of State Employees, the union representing state workers.

Several states are using performance-based contracts to provide children and family services.

The measure passed the Senate 37-10. It will head back to the House for a vote on the amendment.

The legislation would not impact Child Protective Services.

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Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Jennifer Sullivan
Covers the state Legislature from Olympia.

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