DCYF Member Fights to Pass Bill Protecting Children, Fellow Workers

Like many DCYF workers in Washington, Taylor Andrews-Garcelon loves her clients but has felt her job get more stressful and dangerous in the last few years. 

“I value all of my clients and their relationships with their kids,” she said. “Despite Washington being so much further ahead than other states, I see it as unsustainable for the people in the field doing their jobs.”

Andrews-Garcelon has seen cases of fentanyl-exposed children under 2 skyrocket in recent years. She’s been threatened at gunpoint on the job. And she has been denied backup in unsafe home situations. 

When Rep. Couture, 35th Legislative District, proposed a bill to protect DCYF workers and children in Washington, Andrews-Garcelon knew she had to testify on HB 1875. She has worked with Couture and other representatives alongside other DCYF workers to tell the stories of passionate workers who fear not only for the lives of their juvenile clients but also their own. 

“You won’t see DCYF workers in the news unless we get hurt.” 

“You won’t see DCYF workers in the news unless we get hurt,” she said. “But I’ve had my life threatened. I’ve had clients tell me that if I come back on their property, they will shoot me. Sometimes we work alone. I have to warn the next worker, they said they’ll shoot social workers on their property.”

HB 1875 would have given social workers a more formal definition in Washington’s lawbooks and assigned mental health specialists, law enforcement, and more to protect social workers from violence on the job.

HB 1875 didn’t receive a hearing and it was transformed into HB 2407. HB 2407 ensures that when DCYF workers request support in unsafe situations, the agency must honor the request and send a secondary responder, such as a police officer or a mental health specialist, with de-escalation training.

Despite bipartisan support, HB 2407 didn’t pass this year. Many good bills take several sessions to pass, but the outcome is disappointing for social workers worried for their wellbeing on the job, including Taylor. 

“The stress of the job is one thing, but worker safety is a whole other thing right now,” Taylor said. “I’ve got coworkers with kids who don’t want their parents going to work because they’re worried they won’t come home.” 

DCYF workers did walk away with a major win this session 

DCYF workers did walk away with a major win: the passage of HB 6109. This bill acknowledges the synthetic opioid crisis in homes around Washington, lessening the burden on DCYF workers who have to prove children are in danger.

Without Taylor and members like her, this legislation wouldn’t have passed. 
Member lobbyists are instrumental in ensuring legislators are listening to the needs of Washington’s public workers.

From better vacation policy to funding for vital DOT upgrades, you can find all of our union’s 2024 legislative accomplishments here.