FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Feb. 14, 1996
Lowry releases State Patrol report on
OK Boys Ranch
OLYMPIA - Gov. Mike Lowry today
released the first two sections of a State Patrol report on its
investigation of administrative actions by the Department of Social
and Health Services (DSHS) dealing with the Olympia Kiwanis (OK)
"This report documents numerous failures of the system that
was in place at the time," Lowry said. "But it also
gives us confidence that we have identified how these things were
allowed to happen and that the steps we've taken and will continue
to build upon can help prevent such inexcusable tragedies in the
The State Patrol report, initiated by Lowry last September, details
claims of outside influence in the way DSHS employees licensed
and monitored the Olympia group home in the years before it was
closed in 1994. The section on specific employee misconduct related
to the Boys Ranch is still being investigated.
"In no way is this an indictment of the entire agency, but
it does show that there were significant problems with oversight
and decisionmaking," Lowry said. "Frankly, these findings
call for the oversight we have created in our children's ombudsman
legislation." The independent ombudsman would have authority
to investigate complaints about the care of children in state
DSHS has made significant efforts to correct the administrative
problems identified in this report and in previous reviews and
will apply those new procedures throughout its operations. Previous
investigations by the agency and the Attorney General concluded
that from 1987 to 1994, residents of the OK Boys Ranch were involved
in incidents of physical and sexual assault by other residents
and Boys Ranch staff. Criminal charges have been brought against
three former OK Boys Ranch staff members; additional criminal
investigation is ongoing.
The State Patrol report identifies 41 items of concern involving
agency operations. DSHS says 37 of those items have been addressed
by agency directives over the past two years, recent executive
orders, and in the Governor's 1996 supplemental budget request.
In addition, DSHS Secretary Lyle Quasim says the agency will launch
an effort to review and monitor the governing boards which operate
many state-licensed facilities.
"The governor's recent executive order creating a separate
division of licensing gives us the ability to redefine how we
grade our group homes and the people who operate them to ensure
the health and safety of children we place there," Quasim
For more information, contact the Governor's Communications Office
ACTIONS TAKEN SINCE 1993
CHILDREN'S HEALTH AND SAFETY
DSHS'S ACCOUNTABILITY TO THE PUBLIC
NEW SYSTEMS CREATED TO ACHIEVE GREATER
Individual Employee Accountability
- Team Decisionmaking/Community Protection Teams (CPTs):
Until recently, social workers made most critical decisions
in isolation. Now workers are required by DSHS policy to share
decisionmaking by consulting with co-workers and supervisors.
This policy has been institutionalized in Governor Lowry's Executive
Order 96-02. In addition, supervisors are now required by policy
to conduct reviews of all social workers' cases. Further,
Governor Lowry's Executive Order 95-04 mandates the use of CPTs
in specified cases to ensure that DSHS social workers share decisionmaking
on key issues affecting children and families with professionals
in the community.
- Clear Reporting and Decisionmaking Responsibilities:
Until recently, specific reporting and decisionmaking authority
and responsibilities of line-staff, area managers, regional administrators
and headquarters staff were unclear. This made it difficult to
hold DSHS employees individually accountable for their action
or inaction as it related to reporting information or making decisions.
Employees' reporting and decisionmaking responsibilities have
now been clarified through the chain of command, thereby making
it easier to hold individual employees accountable. Governor Lowry's
Executive Order 96-02 institutionalizes this change.
Regional Accountability to DSHS Headquarters
- Delayering the Chain of Command: By July of
1995, DSHS had delayered the Children's Administration headquarters
structure by eliminating two positions (Office Chief for Field
Operations, Director of Children and Family Services) to whom
regional administrators had previously reported. Now regional
administrators report and are directly accountable to the Assistant
Secretary. This change will improve communication and accountability
between headquarters and the regions.
- Regional Performance Expectations: In the Fall
of 1995, clear performance expectations were developed for all
regional managers. These comprehensive expectations address management,
case practice, and performance outcomes. Progress toward these
expectations is being closely monitored by the Assistant Secretary
through monthly meetings with regional administrators and quarterly
meetings with regional management teams. Governor Lowry's Executive
Order 96-02 requires DSHS to prepare an annual report on performance
outcomes relating to children's health and safety.
Provider Accountability to DSHS
- Audit Compliance Tracking System: Prior to 1993,
DSHS audit findings were not tracked, making it difficult to determine
whether corrective action had taken place. Since then, a mandatory
audit compliance tracking system has been implemented which closely
monitors significant findings to ensure that corrective action
- Provider Outcomes Expectations: In 1994, DSHS
recontracted all of group care on a competitive bid basis -- the
first time the group care system had been recontracted in 12 years.
The new contracts include expected treatment outcomes for children
which DSHS will begin measuring this year.
- Group Care Monitors: As part of his 1995-97
Health and Safety budget request, Governor Lowry requested and
the Legislature provided funding for a .5 FTE in each region to
monitor the health and safety of children in group care and to
monitor compliance with corrective action plans. The governor's
1996 Child Protection supplemental budget request proposes an
additional .5 FTE per region. Moreover, Governor Lowry's Executive
Order 96-02 requires DSHS to designate and maintain at least one
group care monitor in each region.
- Centralized Data System: In 1992, DSHS began
implementing a state-of-the-art computer information system (CAMIS)
to track child abuse and neglect complaints and services provided
to children. Since then, DSHS has added a licensing module which
allows licensers to access in this centralized location all pertinent
data relating to group, foster care, and child care licensees.
This helps licensers flag problems earlier by identifying patterns
- License Revocation: In 1995, the Legislature
passed DSHS-request legislation that makes license revocation
easier when a child's health and safety is in jeopardy. The effect
of this legislation is to allow for the revocation of licenses
in cases where a pattern of incidents has been identified, but
a crisis has not yet occurred.
Additional resources are required to successfully maintain
and build upon these newly created systems. Critical needs include:
- Additional social workers (and support staff) to reduce
average caseloads so workers have sufficient time to participate
in team decisionmaking, including CPTs, and maintain accurate
- Additional front-line supervisors to reduce average
caseloads so supervisors can continue to perform 100% case reviews.
- Additional licensers for group care, foster care, and
child care to reduce average caseloads.
- Additional group care monitors to monitor the quality
of care and compliance with corrective action plans.
- Additional social worker and supervisor training to
reinforce team decisionmaking policies and to improve case practice
and supervisory skills.
STEPS TAKEN TO AVOID CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
- Separate Division of Licensing: Governor Lowry's
Executive Order 96-03 establishes a new division of out-of-home
care licensing within DSHS to eliminate the conflicting pressures
of ensuring children's health and safety and locating scarce placements
for abused and neglected children.
- Transfer of Internal Employee Investigations to the
Washington State Patrol: Governor Lowry's Executive Order
96-01 transfers criminal and major administrative investigations
involving DSHS employees to the State Patrol. This transfer is
intended to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest
or undue influence.
ADDITIONAL STEPS TO BE TAKEN TO STRENGTHEN
- Independent Children's Ombudsman Office. Governor
Lowry has requested legislation that would establish an independent
children's ombudsman's office to provide information on children
and family services, ensure DSHS responsiveness to citizen complaints,
and help identify on an ongoing basis "system" issues
and responses for the governor and the legislature to act upon.
An independent ombudsman will help ensure agency accountability
to the public and counteract external pressures on DSHS to compromise
children's health and safety.
- DSHS Response to State Patrol Report. DSHS will
respond to the issues raised in the Patrol's report as indicated
in its formal response.