Proposed human-services takeover by state

Proposed human-services takeover by state upsets Mesa commissioner

It will not be until Thursday that the governor’s Child Welfare Action Committee officially releases its recommendations. But one of the committee’s recommendations, to take control of human services away from individual counties and place them firmly under state control, already is stirring emotion.

Human services departments distribute welfare benefits and other funds to needy families, handle child protection and adult protection services and have a slew of other functions. In Colorado, human services departments usually are run by their respective counties.

One of Mesa County’s best-known child advocates, County Commissioner Janet Rowland, was flabbergasted after hearing the recommendation put forward by Karen Beye, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services. Beye spoke Friday in Denver before a gathering of various county human services directors. The meeting was hosted by Colorado Counties Inc.

“This is bad policy,” Rowland said. “It has to be stopped.”

The governor’s committee was formed in 2008. The committee’s mission is to provide recommendations on how to improve the state’s child-welfare system.

“The ultimate goal will be to reduce the neglect, injury, and fatality rates for Colorado’s children,” according to the executive order Gov. Bill Ritter signed in creating the committee.

“By the state running it, we will see more children die,” Rowland said.

Len Stewart, executive director of Mesa County’s Department of Human Services, was at the Friday meeting, and Rowland listened in via telephone.

“It does propose to basically have the state take direct control of human services, including child welfare, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), everything across the 53 small counties, and then gives the (eleven) large counties a somewhat prejudiced opportunity to continue programs on their own with higher costs to the counties and with greater state supervision,” Stewart said.

The “prejudiced opportunity” Stewart referred to would allow larger counties to continue programs if they could afford them.

Stewart said after the meeting that no one was happy with Beye’s recommendation.

“All the counties were highly charged up in opposition. I heard not one word from anybody that could think of one improvement that this would make,” Stewart said. “The solution posed here doesn’t seem to match any articulated problem that we were trying to solve.”

The Colorado Department of Human Services declined to comment until the committee’s recommendations are made public on Thursday.


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