State law makes intervention for drugs difficult for child protective services, attorney says

The Jefferson County prosecuting attorney believes the reason a Port Townsend child is dead could be from a new law that prevents child protective services from intervening if drugs are involved.

This past weekend, the community dealt with that tragedy. A three-week-old infant died and his father, 37-year-old Jordan Sorensen, is accused of hiding the baby's body in some bushes. 

Police say Sorensen is a known drug user and does not have stable housing, but the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) still deemed he was the safest care provider for the baby.

"I have a lot of concerns about how the suspect ended up with the child in the first place, and it is my understanding it is due to the passage of HB 1227 last year," said Jefferson County prosecuting attorney James Kennedy.


Port Townsend father accused of hiding infant's dead body in bushes: docs

According to probable cause documents FOX 13 News obtained, police say Jordan Sorensen is a known drug addict and doesn’t have a stable home, but the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) chose to leave the infant in Sorensen’s care.

House Bill 1227 is a law that recently went into effect. It makes it more difficult for DCYF to remove a juvenile from a home, specifically if the parents are addicted to drugs. The law states the child needs to be at risk of imminent physical harm before caseworkers can get involved.

The goal of the new law is to keep families together and reduce racial injustice in the welfare system.

Officials with DCYF tell FOX 13 News they have seen a 22% drop in children coming into their services since the law passed.

However, officials with the department say change is needed within the law to address fentanyl in households.

"We need stronger language to be able to go to court and be able to make sure that we take some temporary measures to keep the child safe while the parents work on addressing their substance abuse disorder," said Julie Watts.

One foster mom, who did not want to use her name out of fear of retribution, said she is already seeing the impacts of HB 1227.

"It’s rough, having now had three years of experience kind of interacting with people suffering from addiction, you can see that a lot of times that they can’t safely care for their child right now," she said.

Several state laws are currently being discussed by legislators to address House Bill 1227 including Senate Bill 6109, and House Bill 2447.

DCYF says they support House Bill 2447.