Lowry signs children's ombudsman, adoption services bills

SEATTLE -- Against a backdrop of a mountain forest playground at the Seattle Children's Museum, Gov. Mike Lowry today signed a bill to create an independent family and children's ombudsman to monitor and investigate the services provided to children by the state.

Lowry signed into law House Bill 2856, sponsored by Rep. Suzette Cooke (Kent), which gives the new ombudsman power to investigate complaints against the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and state-licensed facilities housing children. The ombudsman will be appointed by the governor to a three-year term and will make recommendations on ways DSHS can change its procedures regarding children and family services.

"I am very pleased this day to govern over the establishment of a true watchdog for children in this state," Lowry said. "The most important function of government is to provide a healthy and safe environment for our children, and the ombudsman will help make that a reality for children in our state's care."

Originally suggested by the Governor's Child Protection Roundtable last fall, the ombudsman will promote public awareness of family and children's services and monitor DSHS compliance with relevant statutes, rules and policies relating to children's services. Each year, the ombudsman will issue a report to the governor and legislature on the work of the office.

Lowry also signed into law HB 2487, which allows DSHS to increase the adoption support payments made to parents who adopt special needs children. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Kip Tokuda (Seattle), is also expected to drive down the foster child caseload as more of these children are moved from the foster care system to adoption.

"In our current system, there is a disincentive for foster parents to adopt special needs kids because foster care payments are higher than adoption support payments," Lowry said. "It makes sense for us to raise these adoption payments to allow families to bring more special needs children into their homes and give them the loving care that all kids should have."

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For more information, contact the Governor's Communications Office at 360-753-6790.