“Congratulations! You just had a baby. What’s that knock on the door? It’s a state inspector to make sure your home is suitable.”
So begins the February 18, 2019 Podcast with Senator Shelly Short, Republican Floor Leader, 7th Washington Legislative District.
The subject is the seemingly innocuous, ostensibly altruistic, so-called “Welcome to Washington Baby Act” (WWBA).
The last legislative session’s version of the WWBA, House Bill 1771, is expected to make a return when the 2020 Washington Legislative Session convenes on January 13, according to Mark Miloscia, Executive Director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW), ‘Washington‘s Voice for Parental Rights’.
“Imagine what could happen if every new mother and father were required to allow state-sanctioned officials into their homes upon the birth of a baby,” writes Miloscia.
“That is the idea behind legislation that will be in play this coming Legislative Session under Senate Bill 5744 and House Bill 1775 – Universal Visitation” Miloscia says.
Add to the debate as to who – and when – visitors – grandparents, extended family, neighbors – arrive to ooh and aah over the little one: government-types – the hygiene police.
The totally partisan bill (there were no Republicans on board in the last legislative go-round), is supported by a dozen Democrats who want you to believe that they have only the best interests in mind for you and your bundle of joy in having crafted legislation to help you raise your child.
They’re the government and they’re here to help.
As if you couldn’t manage on your own through either common sense and, or, such Internet help as: “How to change a diaper”; “Newborn Baby Bootcamp” and “Sleeping Through the Night” (used, from 25-cents).
“Be the best parent you can be with daily parenting advice, recipe ideas, and access to exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox,” is the promo at Parents.com.
It’s now the promo for politicians who want access straight to your baby’s crib.
Parent.com is free.
Universal Visitation is $43 million.
And that’s just for starters.
“Don’t create this huge state bureaucracy,” says Sen. Short. The $43 million cost she says is just “to set up the program. That’s not extending services.”
Governor Jay Inslee established the Washington State Blue Ribbon Commission on the Delivery of Services to Children and Families and charged it with recommending a structure for a new state department focused solely on improving services and outcomes for children, youth and families.
As if anticipating Sen. Short’s response, the Commission wrote in its report: “creating a new state agency necessarily includes sufficient ‘back office’ — human resources, contract management, information technology, budget staff, etc.” (p.48).
“Analysis from the Fiscal Work Group indicates that between 26 FTE and 39 FTE should be dedicated to the new agency” (p.48).
Add to that “systems to support back-end operations, including travel, facility management, public records tracking and document management” (p.49).
And, of course, there needs to be considered the “cost of additional IT budget needs, over and above the budget requests already submitted for IT upgrades related to ongoing operations” (p.50).
“It,” referring to the Welcome to Washington Baby Act, “makes me incredibly uncomfortable,” says Short. “It’s a solution in search of a problem.
“We want to make sure that people have access to the things they need. Yes, some families struggle but this is not the way to do it.
“This would mandate the Division of Child and Family Youth Services (DCYF) to set up a program. Well you know that that agency is a combination of DSHS, CPS and the Department of Early Learning. These have not been good agencies and so now you’re asking them to develop a program where people are going to come into your home when you have the brand-new baby. To me it is very intrusive.”
The Commission’s report, published November 8, 2016, admitted it “did not have enough time to analyze specific programmatic approaches to achieving the vision of the new agency” (p.48).
Neither did the Commission address what Sen. Short said was more than suspect and in fact downright damning: the track record of the agencies now to be tasked to scan newspapers for birth announcements and show up at your door.
“It is important to note,” the Commission wrote on page 17, “in part due to the limited time available to complete its work, the commission did not conduct an in-depth analysis of performance of those agencies currently providing child, youth and family services to develop its recommendations.”
But others did.
According to The Seattle Times, “Roughly half of the 9,000 children in care in Washington are five years old or younger, and one-quarter of these children have lived in five or more homes, and annual state social worker turnover is approaching 30 percent in some areas.”
The headline in Newsweek was even more grim: “The United States Foster Care system is the nation’s #1 pipeline for child sex trafficking.”
“Here’s the ugly truth,” wrote Michael Dolce. “Most Americans who are victims of sex trafficking come from our nation’s own foster care system. It’s a deeply broken system that leaves thousands vulnerable to pimps as children and grooms them for the illegal sex trade as young adults.”
In May of this year, Washington’s DCYF – which had been created from an amalgamation of DSHS agencies in July of 2018 – paid out $1.7 million to a woman severely abused as a child.
The department with the responsibility for child protective services had failed to protect this child.
“Over and over, (the state Department of Social and Health Services) received glaring reports that K.H. was being physically and sexually abused, but over and over, DSHS ignored them,” attorney Michael T. Pfau said in the statement.
Ignored over and over despite the admission from the Commission that children – including this child – “most at risk of suboptimal outcomes are involved in multiple services from the state” (p.17).
Already receiving multiple state services.
And not one of them did their due diligence.
If only someone from one of these already existing agencies with multiple opportunities to do something, who had seen something, had said something.
But they didn’t.
And now, DSHS, CPS, DCYF, et al promise to do better.
For $43 million.
“We have 2.7 million households in Washington State; 7.5 million population,” said Sen. Short. “The legislation itself says it has identified thousands who really need help. So, I would say, spend the time on the thousands of families who need help. Don’t go after the 2.7 million others that probably don’t need it.
“To me this is the camel’s nose under the tent of an intrusive government program to see how you live.”