Abuse and neglect study group issues recommendations

Susan Kas
Staff attorney

SEATTLE - A  statewide study group issued recommendations to improve Washington's abuse and neglect response system, in a report released earlier this fall.

The workgroup, commissioned by Secretary Susan Dreyfus of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), was tasked with review of the abuse and neglect response system in Washington and eight other states. 

The report recommended the Department:  

  • add more complaint investigators to respond to abuse and neglect allegations involving residents of nursing homes, adult family homes, boarding homes, and supported living facilities;
  • conduct meaningful quality assurance activities to ensure its abuse and neglect response services are resulting in positive outcomes for DSHS clients. The report claims current data collection systems are disjointed and inadequate;
  • implement, in statute, a "bill of rights," and accordingly educate individuals to enforce these rights, and live free from abuse and neglect.

To see the full list of recommendations, see the study group’s report.  

Next Steps


DSHS has moved to implement some of these recommendations.

In its budget request for the 2011-2013 Biennium, DSHS requested 38 new investigators to respond to abuse and neglect in facilities.  the department also requested a quality assurance staff to review investigations of abuse and neglect by non-facility staff, with a new “client protection tracking system” as a “critical first step” towards improving the abuse and neglect response system.

Under DSHS’s budget proposal, these new resources would be funded by higher licensing and certification fees of state-regulated residential facilities.  The current licensing fee for adult family homes is considered low, according to the work group, and supported living providers pay no certification fees.  Increasing these fees, according to the report,  is fair and necessary to cover the costs of effective investigations and oversight to ensure resident safety.

The Governor and state legislature must now approve DSHS’s proposals, to implement the work group’s recommendations.

Bill of Rights

DSHS is also considering a legislative proposal for an "abuse and neglect bill of rights" for adults.

This "bill of rights' would inform adults that they have a right to:

  • be free from abuse or neglect,
  • report abuse or neglect without experiencing retaliation,
  • obtain court orders for protection from their perpetrators,
  • receive accommodations necessary to report or participate in the investigation or proceedings,
  • receive appropriate information and referrals, and
  • make personal choices about where to live and what safety resources to utilize.

This is a no-cost recommendation that will empower individuals with information about their rights and ways to enforce their rights.

Freedom from abuse and neglect