By MALLORY GRUBEN
Workers in Washington state’s child welfare agency are at high risk for physical assault and burnout, and the program’s leader is to blame, says the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE), which is an affiliate of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees).
WFSE represents 47,000 state workers, including hundreds of workers at the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). That includes members of WFSE Local 313 who work at DCYF’s Vancouver office.
The union last month launched a vote of no confidence against DCYF Secretary Ross Hunter. Once two-thirds of DCYF workers vote, WFSE will ask Governor Jay Inslee to remove Hunter from the cabinet-level agency.
Hunter has led DCYF since 2017, when the state separated child services from the Department of Social and Health Services. WFSE members first brought up their concerns about staff assaults in 2018, according to the union. For five years, he has responded with ignorance and indifference, WFSE leaders said.
“When an after-hours worker was beaten severely by a child and thrown out of a window, he went so far as to blame her and say it was her fault because she did not speak softly enough to this individual,” WFSE President Mike Yestramski testified during the Washington State Labor Council convention July 18-20. “At Echo Glen (Children’s Center, a medium/maximum facility in Snoqualmie) when a worker there was severely assaulted and tied up and left in a closet and had their vehicle stolen by youths there, he went so far as to blame her for having a car that could be easily driven by teenagers. This man needs to go.”
WSLC passed a resolution supporting DCYF workers.