The House Early Learning and Human Services Committee considered a bill Thursday that was spurred by last year’s Powell family tragedy. Josh Powell was a suspect in his wife’s disappearance when he killed himself and his two young sons during a supervised home visit.
The Department of Social Health Services conducted an investigation of the Powell case, which is required whenever a child dies of suspected abuse or neglect. The findings of the Child Fatality Review Team are the basis for this bill.
Under the proposed legislation, parents who are the subject of a murder investigation would have their visitation rights restricted or removed. It also requires DSHS to coordinate with law enforcement and the court system if a family member is suspected of a crime that could affect the safety of a child.
Patrick Dowd, a former ombudsman of Washington’s Office of Family and Children, told the committee that there needs to be more transparency between DSHS and law enforcement.
“Not perhaps asking for full disclosure,” Dowd said, “but simply a worker saying, ‘look we need to determine what limitations might be placed on the father’s contact so we can protect these kids.’”
Sen. Randi Becker (R-Eatonville) is the sponsor of the bill and also served on the fatality review team. She views another element of the bill as crucial — the requirement of DSHS to reassess family visitations when a parent is ordered to complete a psychosexual evaluation.
This revision, Becker said, could have prevented the deaths of the Powell boys.
“When he went in to make his appointment for that psychosexual evaluation he asked all sorts of questions,” Becker said. “From my own perspective I think that’s when he realized he was in trouble.”