800 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2000
Seattle, WA 98104
The Seattle Social and Health Services Division is comprised of 27 attorneys and 19 professional staff. The division provides legal services to the Department of Social and Health Services in DSHS Region 2 South (King County). This is a high volume litigation division; we cover ten juvenile court calendars per week, Superior Court trials, administrative hearings, administrative appeals and Court of Appeals cases, as well as providing client advice. The subject matter areas include child abuse and neglect, termination of parental rights, vulnerable adult guardianships and protection orders and licensing of foster homes, day care facilities, adult family homes and boarding homes.
The division provides legal representation to the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Children’s Administration, Adult Protective Services (APS), the Division of Licensed Resources (DLR), Residential Care Services (RCS) and the Department of Early Learning (DEL) in all levels of state and federal court and administrative tribunals. Approximately 80 percent of the division’s caseload involves juvenile court litigation (juvenile dependency, guardianships and termination of parental rights proceedings). The other types of work handled include foster care and child care licensing hearings, adult family home and boarding home licensing hearings and adult protective services guardianships and protective orders.
The number of new juvenile dependency cases increased about 30% since 2009 and remained consistent over the last five years. In calendar year 2014, the division represented DSHS in approximately 900 new dependency filings. The number of termination of parental rights cases filed decreased from 2011 to 2014, due to increased dependency filings and the need to focus limited resources on those cases. In 2014 we began to work on addressing the backlog of permanency cases, and the number of terminations filed has therefore increased.
King County Juvenile Court’s Family Treatment Court provides intensive substance abuse treatment and monitoring for addicted parents involved in dependency proceedings. The goal of FTC is to provide the necessary treatment and other services so that permanency for children can be achieved in a timely manner. The Attorney General’s Office is one of the founding members of King County’s FTC.
This division is an active participant in the Model Court program, in which King County Juvenile Court is partnered with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges to implement changes in practice and outcomes in child welfare cases. In collaboration with the court and other stakeholders, we have implemented mandatory mediation in dependency cases, visitation changes, calendar reforms, and other improvements.
The SHS division is an active participant in the Parents for Parents Program, in which veteran parents mentor and support those new to the dependency process. The division also participates in Dependency 101, a twice-monthly orientation class for parents just entering the dependency system. The division is also represented at the annual Reunification Day event, a celebration of families which have successfully reunited through the child welfare system.
The division remains active in the area of adult abuse, neglect and exploitation. Vulnerable adult protection remains a priority for the division. Petitions to establish guardianship for vulnerable adults have increased 15 to 20 percent since 2006. This increase may be due to more active efforts and community awareness. The SHS division is active in local training and education efforts in this area.
Another area of significant activity for the Seattle SHS Division is in the area of child care licensing. We have seen a steady growth in the number of child care licensing cases handled by this division over the last few years. This may be the result of increased monitoring by the Department of Early Learning.