Social Services

Governor Chris Gregoire’s passion for child welfare and care for the vulnerable has guided her throughout her career. Her first job out of law school was in Spokane, working to protect children from abuse. Protecting and providing for those who can’t care for themselves, regardless of age, continues to be a priority for Governor Gregoire. Changes made under her administration aim to assist families, rehabilitate substance abusers and care for the mentally ill.

Caring for vulnerable children

Governor Gregoire believes every child deserves to grow up in a safe home. In fact, the Governor’s efforts to further protect children were commended by the U.S. Department of Health, which in 2007 recognized Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services for making great strides to improve child safety.

In 2005, Governor Gregoire mandated faster response times to investigate suspected child abuse or neglect cases and more frequent home visits for children receiving services. To ensure that these new workload standards are met, Governor Gregoire garnered new funding to hire hundreds of additional caseworkers to help Washington families and their children. Governor Gregoire also increased services to the approximately 10,500 children living in foster or group care and increased assistance to families who adopt special-needs foster children. In addition, Governor Gregoire is actively monitoring the Department of Social and Health Services’ implementation of the Safe Kids, Healthy Families reform agenda for the state’s child protective and child welfare services.

Rewarding work

Governor Gregoire believes that parents have a responsibility to take care of their children and that hard work should be rewarded. In 2006, she made significant changes to the state’s WorkFirst program to help break the cycle of poverty. She also ensured that child care subsidies continue for parents seeking safe care for their children while they look for work.

Governor Gregoire put into motion a recommendation from her WorkFirst Reexamination Group that all parents receiving WorkFirst grants agree to participate in the program and accept employment if they are able to work. She ordered new efforts be made to steer non-compliant parents into jobs.

Maintaining access to community residential care

Governor Gregoire believes that adult family homes, which care for high-need clients in a home-like setting, are a vital part of the state’s care network. These facilities help ensure that high-quality care is available outside of nursing homes for vulnerable adults needing long-term care. She has supported rate increases for these valued employees.

Supporting mental health care

When federal funding cuts threatened community mental health services in our state, Governor Gregoire added $80 million to the state budget to maintain these important services. She also expanded inpatient capacity at state mental hospitals to meet growing demand for evaluation and treatment services.

Start-up funding, allocated by Governor Gregoire, has expanded outpatient treatment and service capacity, which helps divert some clients from more expensive in-hospital care. Under the Governor’s leadership, the state developed an integrated mental health and chemical dependency screening and assessment process. Governor Gregoire applied for and won one of the seven federal Mental Health System Transformation planning grants. Washington’s five-year system transformation project began October 2005.

Supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and their families

Governor Gregoire’s Autism Task Force is studying the growing incidence of autism and ways to improve the delivery and coordination of related services. Its report will help Governor Gregoire make sound decisions on how the state can best respond to the needs of autistic children and their families.

Governor Gregoire launched a pilot program targeted to help low-income families with developmentally disabled children. Its recommendations on how to improve family support programs have formed the basis for her budget and policy proposals to the Legislature.

Affordable housing

Governor Gregoire signed a state budget increasing the Washington Housing Trust Fund to record levels to build more affordable housing for homeless veterans, homeless families with children, people with developmental disabilities, domestic violence victims, farmworkers and other vulnerable families.

In Southwest Washington, affordable housing was already in short supply. The situation was exacerbated in fall 2007, when rising floodwaters wiped out homes, property and livelihoods. In her 2008 supplemental budget, Governor Gregoire earmarked $10 million to restore affordable housing destroyed by the record floods, as well as build additional units to help meet demand. The money is reserved for government agencies and non-profit housing developers serving low-income and special needs households.

Governor Gregoire used an executive order to create the Interagency Council on Homelessness to develop a 10-year state plan to address homelessness. Under her leadership, the Department of Social and Health Services’ Mental Health Division is also undertaking a study to determine ways to provide more supportive residential care options for individuals with chronic serious mental illnesses.

In September 2007, Governor Gregoire formed the Task Force for Homeowner Security to evaluate instability in the national subprime mortgage market. Recommendations from the group to secure more funding to set up education and counseling services for families affected by the mortgage crisis were included in the Governor’s 2008 supplemental budget request. Also included in her budget proposal was $50 million for the Housing Trust Fund, which helps meet the housing needs of low-income and social needs populations through various strategies.

To help low- and moderate-income families, the Governor proposed in 2008 that the Washington State Housing Finance Commission’s debt limit be raised from $4.5 billion to $6.5 billion so that more projects can be funded and more families live in their own homes.

Supporting families in need

Governor Gregoire and legislators in 2006 worked together to quickly boost the state’s utility assistance program to help low-income families pay high heating bills. Governor Gregoire doubled the availability of alcohol and drug abuse treatment services. She expanded funding to provide post-traumatic stress disorder treatment to veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Her health care agenda also addresses the physical and mental health needs of Washington families.

Building a better future for Washington families

Governor Gregoire set up in seven communities a pilot program that encourages low-income individuals and families to save through Individual Development Accounts that are matched with some state funds. Under Governor Gregoire’s leadership, Washington is one of six states that have established a work group to assess ways to assist youth with disabilities to successfully transition to independent adulthood. These are just a few of the examples of her advocacy for families, children, the vulnerable and others in need that have been matched with actions that provide stability and security.

Governor Gregoire proposes to make focused investments to continue our progress in providing for the safety of our children and vulnerable citizens, as well as assure that people can be served in their communities. She also proposes to fill gaps created by federal funding decreases, which will help stabilize services to those most vulnerable as well as respond to requirements of legal action.