Washington State’s child welfare system is in the midst of profound changes in how services are delivered and funded. Key components of these changes include converting all contracts for child welfare services to performance-based contracts, increasing the use of evidence-based services, reinvesting savings in order to sustain and expand prevention and early intervention programs, and carefully monitoring the effectiveness of reforms in order to ensure that change results in improvement.
This study has determined that the Washington State Child Welfare system significantly underpays private agencies for child welfare services. Continuation of the current practice of balancing the budget through heavily discounted rate structures has the potential to undermine the ability of reformers to achieve an outcome-based system. Prior to this study, adequacy of private agency rates had not been part of the dialogue; rate studies have not been commissioned or completed and DSHS leadership and the Legislature have not been provided cost data or informed about the seriousness of existing rate gaps. Although mechanisms described in recent reform legislation have the potential to address the serious rate gaps, this will not automatically occur unless the findings from this study are brought into the reform process.