Legislation passed today by the Senate would provide a web-based system to improve the reporting of, and response to, cases of child abuse and neglect.

“This will correct a breakdown in our system for reporting child abuse,” Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver) said. “While the state has a system in place to make sure these incidents are reported, backed-up phone lines during peak hours have made it difficult for those entrusted to file the reports to get through.”

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. The portal is modeled on a system used successfully by Adult Protective Services that handles 30 percent of all referrals.

As caseloads have increased, DCYF received 125,975 requests for intervention in 2019, 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.

“As this End Harm Line is a critical means of providing early intervention and support for our children and families, it is imperative that we streamline the process to ensure that we can get help to them more quickly,” Cleveland said.

Having passed the Senate by a vote of 46-0, SB 6556 now goes to the House of Representatives.