On July 1, change is coming to child welfare, behavioral health in Washington state

Release Date: 
Jun 12 2018
DSHS Office of Communications
Norah West
(360) 902-7833

DSHS’ Children’s Administration, Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery to join other state agencies 

OLYMPIA—On July 1, 2018, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) will look a lot different. 

The agency’s Children’s Administration is joining forces with the Department of Early Learning to form the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), a cabinet-level agency that is singularly focused on the well-being of children in Washington. DCYF was created by House Bill 1661, which was the result of the work of Governor Inslee’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Children and Families. DSHS’ juvenile rehabilitation division and Office of Juvenile Justice will follow on July 1, 2019, as will the Working Connections Child Care program. 

As part of Washington’s integration of behavioral and physical health services, on July 1 the responsibilities of DSHS’ Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery will move to the Health Care Authority and Department of Health. House Bill 1388 passed the Legislature during the 2018 session and was signed into law by Governor Inslee. This new law moves mental health authority and substance use prevention services to the Health Care Authority. It also moves licensing and certification of behavioral health providers to the Department of Health. DSHS will continue to oversee the state’s two psychiatric facilities (Eastern and Western state hospitals) as well as the Child Study and Treatment Center. 

“While we will deeply miss our colleagues in Children’s Administration and the Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery and thank them for the work they have done, this is a wonderful step forward for the staff and for the families and individuals in Washington they serve,” said DSHS Secretary Cheryl Strange. “We wish all three agencies the very best as they move into their new roles and responsibilities, and we are very excited to see the next chapter for DSHS as we continue the work of transforming lives as the state’s largest social service agency.”

On July 1, DSHS’ service areas will include aging and long-term care; public benefits (SNAP, TANF, refugee assistance, child support); developmental disabilities (including residential habilitation centers); state psychiatric hospitals and the Office for Forensic Mental Health; the Special Commitment Center; vocational rehabilitation; and support areas such as benefits fraud investigation and research and development.



DSHS does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.