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AGO 1951 No. 466 - March 09, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

SOCIAL SECURITY ‑- DIVISION FOR CHILDREN ‑- PRIVATE AGENCIES FOR CARE OF CHILDREN.

The Division for Children of the State Department of Social Security is required by law to make the fullest possible use of private agencies in providing care and child welfare services for children.

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                                                                   March 9, 1951

Honorable Bernard J. Gallagher
House of Representatives
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 466

Dear Mr. Gallagher:

            This is in answer to your request for an opinion from this office on the following question:

            Is the State Department of Social Security, through the Division for Children, required by law to make full use of private agencies, in so far as possible, to care for and supervise homeless, dependent and neglected children?

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            The Division for Children of the State Department of Social Security is required by law to make the fullest possible use of private agencies in providing care and child welfare services for children.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            You are concerned with the question of whether or not the Department of Social Security is required to use private agencies in providing child welfare services, in view of the provision in section 553 of the staff manual, Volume II, which reads as follows:

            "Application by a county welfare department for service from a private children's agency or institution is made when this service is not  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]available through the county welfare departments of the state and when the child needs the type of care given by that particular agency.  Any agencies currently approved by the SDSS may be used."  (Emphasis added)

            Section 6, chapter 114, Laws of 1937 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. 9992-106) authorized the Department of Social Security to cooperate with the federal government and its agencies in providing for services and care of homeless and neglected dependent children, and authorized the expenditure of funds by the Department of Social Security.  That section was subsequently amended by section 6, chapter 242, Laws of 1941, by the addition of a provision authorizing the department "to accept custody of children and to provide for the care of children in need of protective services directly or through its agents; * * * "

            Section 1, chapter 260, Laws of 1947, amended section 6 to read as follows:

            "The Department of Public Welfare, through and by means of the Division for Children, shall, within the policy hereinafter indicated, have the power to cooperate with the Federal government, its agencies or instrumentalities, in developing, administering and supervising a plan for establishing, extending aid and strengthening services for the protection and care of homeless, dependent and neglected children, and children in danger of becoming delinquent; to accept custody of children and to provide for the care of children in need of protective services, directly or through its agents, following in general the policy of using properly approved private agency services for the actual care and supervision of such children in so far as they are available, paying for long term care of such dependent children as are accepted by the Department as eligible for support at a reasonable rate established by the Department; to receive and expend all funds made available through the Department of Public Welfare by the Federal government, the State or its political subdivisions for such purposes."  (Emphasis added)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            In attempting to carry out the provisions of the law, the Department of Social Security issued operating instructions to the county welfare departments by certain provisions in the staff manual.  We have been advised by the Department of Social Security that the policy statement in the manual to which you refer was adopted after consultation with the assistant attorney general advising the department at that time, Mr. Boris Kramer.  In a memorandum prepared after the conference with Mr. Kramer, he was quoted as having stated that it was discretionary with the State Department of Social Security as to whether or not that department would use private agencies.  However, he did state that the department had less discretion concerning the use of private agencies than it formerly had.

            It is our feeling that the State Department of Social Security may have misinterpreted the advice given by legal counsel to the department concerning the department's obligation to use private agencies in providing child welfare services.  After reviewing the amendments in the law noted above, it is the opinion of this office that the Department of Social Security is required by law to make the fullest possible use of all private agencies which are available in providing care and services to children covered by our child welfare laws.

            Accordingly, it is our opinion that the statement of policy in the manual is inconsistent with the statutory provisions in so far as it requires the county welfare departments to use other facilities or agencies in preference to private agencies, and we have advised the Department of Social Security that that provision in the manual should be changed in order to conform with the law.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

JANE DOWDLE
Assistant Attorney General

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