This website provides up-to-date information on the size and shape of Washington's child welfare system and information on child and family outcomes. The information on this site is organized by the three main parts of the child welfare system: Investigations and Assessments, In-Home Services, and Out-of-Home Care.
When citizens report child abuse and/or neglect (CA/N) to the child welfare system, reports are “screened” to determine whether further action is warranted. Referrals that meet the statutory definition of CA/N receive a child protective services response of an investigation; referrals that do not meet the statutory definition of CA/N receive will either be assessed (e.g., Family Reconciliation Services) or closed. Following an investigation and/or assessment, the family and child is referred for In-Home Services when the child can remain safely at home with services in place, the child is placed in Out-of-Home Care when they cannot remain safely at home, or the case is closed.
After an investigation and/or an assessment, the social worker is also required to find out whether the child is safe in their home. If the investigator decides that the child is safe in the home, the investigator needs to determine whether the family may benefit from supportive services while the children remain in the home. These services can range from obtaining help paying utility bills to therapeutic interventions for the family. The key feature of In-Home Services is that the families participate on a completely voluntary basis – the families will be offered services when there is a need but they are not required to accept the services.
If a social worker determines that a child is not safe in their home, they must make arrangements for that child to be placed in a safe place away from their home. This placement might be licensed foster care, but it might also be with a relative or another individual known to the child. Out-of-Home Care can be either voluntary or non-voluntary. Voluntary placements require a parent to agree to have their children placed in out-of-home care for a very short limited period of time. Non-voluntary placements involve court oversight in determining when a child will have a safe permanent placement through reunification, adoption, or guardianship.