Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

800 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2000
Seattle, WA 98104



The Seattle Social and Health Services Division is comprised of 29 attorneys and 22 professional staff.  The division provides legal services to the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) in Region 4 (King County).  This is a high volume litigation division; we cover eleven juvenile court calendars per week, Superior Court trials, guardianship hearings, 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, family conflict cases, vulnerable adult guardianships and protection orders and licensing of foster homes, day care facilities, adult family homes and assisted living facilities.

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Legal Services Provided

The division provides legal representation to DCYF and DSHS, including child welfare services, 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, termination of parental rights and Child in Need of Services proceedings).  The other types of work handled include foster care and child care licensing hearings, adult family home and assisted living facilities licensing hearings and adult protective services guardianships and protective orders.

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The number of new juvenile dependency cases increased about 30% in 2010 and has remained consistently high.  In the last couple of years, the division represented the Department in approximately 800 new dependency filings per year. 

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.  We represent DCYF on two FTC calendars per week.

The division has been an active participant in many court and practice improvement projects.  In collaboration with the court and other stakeholders, we have implemented mandatory mediation in dependency cases, settlement conferences in permanency cases, visitation changes, early developmental screening programs, 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 in the last several years.  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.

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