Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
News Conference: Welfare Reform and Child Welfare Reform
October 6, 2003
Thank you for coming.
I am proud to be here today with DSHS to speak about our continued progress on welfare reform and child welfare services.
Washington state has been a leader on a number of national concerns, including welfare reform and child welfare services.
Our leadership role on welfare reform issues is best exemplified by our WorkFirst program.
The goal of the WorkFirst program is to help people on welfare find and keep jobs while supporting their families.
Since the WorkFirst program began six years ago the number of families on welfare has dropped 44 percent.
As a result, there are fewer than 54,000 families on welfare compared to nearly 97,000 in 1997.
More importantly, 135,000 parents who have left welfare through this program have remained off welfare.
Even in these tough economic times, approximately 2,000 WorkFirst parents continue to enter the job market every month.
Because of its exceptional performance over the past two fiscal years, Washington state will be awarded more than $8.7 million in performance bonuses from the federal government.
I should note that $729,000 of this award is because we number one among all states for access to subsidized child care services and affordability.
With these latest awards, WorkFirst has earned more than $32 million in performance bonuses in its lifetime.
In 1999, WorkFirst earned a $10.6 million award by showing top-ranked improvements in placing welfare recipients into jobs and helping them succeed once employed.
Similarly, last year, WorkFirst earned a $13.7 million performance award by ranking sixth in the country for improvement in wage earnings and job retention for welfare recipients from 1999 to 2000.
This is a testament to the WorkFirst program and the service that it provides.
Congratulation to you, Dennis, and your entire staff.
This federal award is a remarkable achievement.
In the area of child welfare reform, I am also proud to announce that two more DSHS children’s services offices – in Omak and Walla Walla – have now been accredited by the International Council on Accreditation.
The council accredits only those child welfare services offices that meet the highest standard of social work practice.
This brings to eight the number of DSHS children’s services offices which have been accredited.
This is also encouraging evidence that DSHS’s “Kids Come First Action Agenda,” is making a difference for the children in our state.
It is important that we do as much as possible to insure the safety of one of our most vulnerable groups.
Finally, the strength of any program and the successes that it enjoys are truly a reflection of those who guide them.
That is why it gives me great pleasure to be here to introduce two first-rate leaders to continue Washington’s progress in welfare reform and in keeping children safe.
You will hear shortly from both Deb Bingaman and Uma Ahluwalia and I know you will be impressed by them both as leaders and people, as I am.
Now, I would like to introduce the secretary of DSHS, Dennis Braddock to say a few words and introduce the new members of his staff.