COUNCIL FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH ‑- RELATIONSHIP TO DIVISION OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES
The policies formulated and recommended by the state council for children and youth should be taken into account by the director of institutions and the supervisor of children and youth services in order to foster the harmonious and close relationship between the council and the division which the legislature intended.
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July 18, 1956
Honorable Thomas A. Harris
Department of Institutions
Public Lands-Social Security Building
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 55-57 No. 301
In your letter of June 28, 1956, you requested a formal opinion on the following subject:
"Does the Council of Children and Youth, created by Chapter 234, Laws of 1951, have a policymaking role with reference to the state institutions mentioned in said statute or is its responsibility in an advisory capacity only?"
Our views on this problem are contained in the following analysis.
In 1951 the legislature established within the department of public institutions a new division of children and youth services. Section 1, chapter 234, Laws of 1951, provides in part:
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"The purposes of this act are: * * * to insure nonpolitical and qualified operation, supervision, management, and control of the Washington State Training School, the State School for Girls, Lakeland Village, Rainier State School, the State School for the Blind, and the State School for the Deaf, * * *"
Section 17 of this act (RCW 43.19.430) created a state council for children and youth consisting of twenty-one members. Members of the council serve staggered, six-year terms. The terms of seven members expire every two years.
RCW 43.19.440 provides as follows:
"The state council for children and youth shall:
"(1) Advise with, and formulate and recommend policies to, the director of public institutions and supervisor of children and youth services in relation to the custody, care, education, treatment, and rehabilitation of youth.
"(2) Develop and recommend programs designed to provide, strengthen, and coordinate such services as are deemed essential to the children and youth of the state, and to that end, cooperate with existing agencies, and to encourage and assist the organization of committee units in the several counties of the state for local study and examination of youth problems.
"(3) Collect and collaborate with other agencies and with special local committee units in collecting statistics and information regarding the behavior problems of children and the underlying causes thereof.
"(4) Make continuous studies of the educational, health, recreational, economic, and working conditions of children and youth with the object in view of recommending the adoption of measures designed to correct the behavior problems of children.
"(5) Make such surveys as may be deemed necessary to enable it to properly carry out its policymaking and recommendatory powers.
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"(6) Advise and consult with the director in the appointment of the supervisor."
RCW 43.19.280 provides that the director of public institutions shall, "with the advice of the state council for children and youth," appoint the supervisor of children and youth services.
It is evident that in 1951 the legislature was disturbed by the rising tide of juvenile delinquency. It recognized that the maximum security institutions at Chehalis and Grand Mound were but one scene in the big picture. The pertinent inquiry was what causes these behavior problems and what needs to be done to correct them. What steps should be taken to facilitate the restoration of these children and youth as useful members of society?
The council was directed by the legislature to get people interested in this problem at the local level. It was charged with the duty of conducting a continuous research program to find out the underlying causes of behavior problems and to recommend measures designed to correct them.
Under the statutes, both the division of children and youth services and the council are directed to assemble data to provide a better understanding of the problem. It is our belief that the chief function of the council is to devise a program which will encourage communities and organizations to organize and give direction to youth activities. To prevent children from reaching the point where commitment to a state institution is the only answer, is the challenge assigned to the state council for children and youth.
Nevertheless, the legislature recognized that the council would gain a fund of knowledge and information on the general problem. It was given specific statutory authority both to formulate and to recommend policies to the department director and division supervisor.
In 1951 the division of children and youth was in the department of public institutions. In 1955 this division was transferred to the newly created department of institutions. RCW 43.28.020 (18) [1955 Supp.]. The directors of both departments, under prior and existing law, "hold office at the pleasure of the governor." RCW 43.17.020 and RCW 43.28.010 (4) [1955 Supp.].
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We do not believe the legislature intended the council to administer the internal affairs of the institutions contained in the division. The control and operation of the division is vested by law in the supervisor. RCW 43.19.370. By giving the council a voice in the selection of the supervisor it seems evident that the legislature expected that the policies of the supervisor and director would be in general harmony with those formulated and recommended by the council.
In our view, it was the purpose of the legislature to insure a continuous, more enlightened program of operating the listed institutions which would not be disrupted by a change in directors. In other important areas of state government the legislature has by statute sought to insulate departments from the upheavals occasioned by the exigencies of political fortune. See RCW 43.27.070 providing for the state highway commission and RCW 77.04.030 which makes provision for the state game commission. In each situation, commissioners are appointed for staggered terms of six years.
While we do not suggest the council has a policy making role in the same sense as the game commission or the highway commission, it is required to formulate and recommend policies to the supervisor and director. It would seem most improvident for the council to conduct comprehensive research and to formulate policies based on its experience and information if such policies were not considered by the division supervisor and department director.
We do not infer that every administrative decision made by the supervisor in connection with the operation of these institutions should be cleared with the council. We do believe, however, that important decisions which constitute a change in policy should be taken up with the council. Otherwise, the division and the council will be lacking the harmonious relationship which we believe the legislature intended.
We hope the foregoing analysis will prove helpful.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General