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Inside Olympia — Family and Children, Long-Term Care Ombuds

This week on Inside Olympia we sit down with two state ombuds, charged with guarding the rights of Washington’s youngest residents, and its oldest. What are the greatest challenges facing youth in the child welfare system and adults in nursing homes and other care facilities? We interview Patrick Dowd, Washington’s Family and Children’s Ombuds, and Patricia Hunter, the state’s Long-Term Care Ombuds.

The Family and Children’s Ombuds recently released an annual report in which it cited several main areas of concern: the impact of the fentanyl crisis on children and families, and balancing that increased threat with implementation of the 2021 Keeping Families Together Act, which made it harder to remove children from homes; ongoing efforts to eliminate “placement exceptions” for kids in foster care, which in the past has meant children staying in hotels; and, safety concerns for caseworkers at the Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families, which oversees child welfare in Washington.

Long-Term Care Ombuds Patricia Hunter talks about several priorities for her office: Ensuring quality of care for residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, which she says will require additional funding and staffing for her office; recruiting and maintaining caregivers in the health care workforce, which Hunter says revolves around pay, working conditions and related issues; and the cost and availability of housing, including the tenant rights of long-term care residents – which Hunter says do not match those of other tenants.

Both say the problems are complex and require a coordinated approach. Learn more about the challenges facing Washington’s child care and long-term care systems, this week on Inside Olympia.