Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1958 No. 218 - Sep 4 1958
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


The department of public assistance is legally authorized to use federal funds for the purpose of paying training grants to persons within the child welfare program.

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                                                               September 4, 1958

Honorable George C. Starlund, Director
Department of Public Assistance
Public Lands‑-Social Security Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 218

Dear Sir:

            This is in answer to your request for an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Is the department of public assistance legally authorized to use federal funds for the purpose of paying training grants to persons within the child welfare program?

            We answer your question in the affirmative.


            One of the most fundamental concepts in the administration of public assistance is that of close cooperation between the state and the federal government.  In the case of Morgan v. Dept. of Social Security, 14 Wn. (2d) 156, 127 P. (2d) 686, the court had occasion to discuss the declaration of intent contained in Initiative 141 providing for the cooperation by the state with the federal agency administering the federal social security act in order to secure the maximum matching funds. The court there stated at page 174 as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            ". . . It is manifestly the intention of the state act to place the state in a position to avail itself to the full of the benefits of the Federal act, and the state statute negatives the idea that it was the intention of the act that the state proceed upon its relief program independently of the predominant partner, the Federal government, in administering relief funds, or upon any plan or system different from that established by the Federal act.

            "'The federal and state statutes represent "a cooperative legislative effort by state and national governments, for carrying out a public purpose common to both, which neither could fully achieve without the cooperation of the other."  Carmichael v. Southern Coal & Coke Co., 301 U.S. 495.'  Northwestern Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Tone, 125 Conn. 183, 4 A. (2d) 640."

            In the later case of Whatcom County v. Langlie, 40 Wn. (2d) 855, 246 P. (2d) 836, the supreme court specifically held that the declaration of aims, purposes, and intent is a constituent part of an act and is to be considered in construing, interpreting, and administering it.  One of the several legislative statements of this basic policy of cooperation with the federal government by the department of public assistance is found in RCW 74.04.055, as follows:

            "In furtherance of the policy of this state to cooperate with the federal government in the programs included in chapters 74.04 through 74.16 [[chapters 74.04 through 74.16 RCW]]the director shall issue such rules and regulations as may become necessary to entitle this state to participate in federal matching funds unless the same be expressly prohibited by chapters 74.04 through 74.16 [[chapter 74.04 through 74.16 RCW]].  Any section or provision of chapters 74.04 through 74.16 [[chapter 74.04 through 74.16 RCW]]which may be susceptible to more than one construction shall be interpreted in favor of the construction most likely to satisfy federal laws entitling this state to receive federal matching funds for the various programs of public assistance."  (Emphasis supplied)

            RCW 74.12.130 is concerned specifically with child welfare services and directs the department to

            "(1) Cooperate with the federal government, its agencies or instrumentalities, in developing, administering, and supervising a plan for establishing, extending aid to, and strengthening services for the protection and care of homeless, dependent, and neglected children, and children in danger of becoming delinquent;

            ". . .

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "(3) Receive and expend all funds made available by the federal government, the state or its political subdivisions for such purposes."

            RCW 72.12.240 further authorizes the department to provide

            ". . . such social and related services as are reasonably necessary to encourage the care of dependent children in their own homes or in the homes of relatives, to help maintain and strengthen family life and to help such parents or relatives to attain maximum self-support and personal independence consistent with the maintenance of continuing parental care and protection.  In the provision of such services, maximum utilization of other agencies providing similar or related services shall be affected."

            It is clear that under the provisions of those statutes, supra, the legislature has delegated broad powers to the department to take such action it deems necessary to establish, extend aid to and strengthen services for the protection of neglected children.  The initial determination of how such services are to be provided, as well as how they are to be strengthened, rests within the discretion of the director of the department of public assistance acting in cooperation with the federal government.

            In the present instance we are advised that the federal government provides funds to the department of public assistance for the payment of training grants to provide graduate work to persons within the division of child welfare in order to strengthen and extend the program in the participating states.

            Accordingly, you are advised that it is the opinion of this office that the department is legally authorized to use federal funds for the purpose of paying training grants to persons within the child welfare program.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General