The state would provide a web-based system to improve the reporting of, and response to, cases of child abuse and neglect, under legislation passed today by the Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee.

“With the state’s current limited resources, callers have been left on hold for up to an hour at a time, with alarming frequency,” Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver) said. “We have no way of knowing if callers have given up entirely and if child abuse or neglect is being under-reported as a result. Neither of those conditions is acceptable under any circumstances.”

Senate Bill 6556, sponsored by Cleveland, would direct the state Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to develop a web-based reporting portal accessible to those mandated to report child abuse and neglect. The portal must provide a call-back mechanism so callers placed on hold can leave a phone number for DCYF to call back and complete the report.

“Too often, we give our agencies responsibilities that are impossible to meet with limited resources. This bill is aimed at providing direction and support to DCYF in order to address this critical need as a top priority,” Cleveland said. “It’s modeled after an existing system used by Adult Protective Services that handles 30 percent of all referrals and has gotten high marks from staff.”

DCYF received 125,975 requests for intervention in 2019 as caseloads have increased, leading to longer wait times and more abandoned calls, particularly during peak hours. A review of abandoned calls in May 2019 showed that 26 percent of callers hung up, but DCYF was unable to determine whether callers called back later or never called back.