5150. Licensing Investigations

Notice: Due to leadership decisions to create statewide consistency and to support the DCYF RESJ framework, recent court decisions, legislation, recent WAC changes, and the launch of the online application portal, etc., this policy is under current revision and may not reflect current practice. For specifics about these changes, please email DCYF Rules and Policies Unit for assistance.

Approval:  Jennifer Strus, Assistant Secretary

Effective Date:  1998

Revised Date: August 31, 2015

Sunset Review: August 31, 2018


Licensing Complaint Investigations are conducted to determine if a violation of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) licensing regulations has occurred in a licensed facility.  When violations occur, DLR will take steps to remedy the violation. 


This policy applies to all DLR staff.


RCW 74.15 


  1. The DLR/CPS Handbook must be used for all concurrent DLR/CPS and licensing investigations of child abuse and neglect (CA/N) allegations.
  2. Licensing complaint investigations must begin within 5 days of receipt of the intake. Document the beginning of the investigation in a provider note.
  3. A site visit must occur unless circumstances exist that would eliminate this requirement. Such circumstances must be approved by a supervisor.
  4. Conduct a thorough licensing investigation by identifying and addressing all WAC violations, and utilizing shared decision making as necessary.
  5. Investigation findings (“Valid” or “Not Valid”) must be made within 45 days on licensing only investigations, using the following criteria:
    1. Valid: Based on the facts obtained in the investigation, there is reasonable cause to believe a licensing violation occurred.
    2. Not Valid: Based on the facts obtained in the investigation, there is reasonable cause to believe a licensing violation did not occur or it cannot be determined if a licensing violation occurred.
  6. Before an investigation is extended beyond 45 days due to a DLR/CPS investigation or extenuating circumstances, the supervisor must approve and document this extension in a provider note.
  7. DLR staff will immediately address any violations which threaten the health and safety of children and document in the provider module. If merited, DLR will inform DCFS and/or the private agency of the intake and recommend a “no referral” be placed on the home. This could result in recommendations for removal of children or in no additional children placed in the home. Findings must be documented in a Provider Action in FamLink.
  8. DLR staff will notify the licensee of the findings in writing. Regional licensors must copy the supervising agency when they notify the licensee. Additional WAC violations noted during a licensing complaint must be addressed so that the violation is remedied.
  9. A compliance agreement is created in collaboration with the licensee with a plan to remedy all WAC violations.
  10. The Provider Action will remain open until all legal actions, including appeals, are complete.
  11. Contracts staff will be notified of any “valid” findings on providers who are also contracted with the state.
  12. Infractions alleged to have occurred on applicants not yet licensed, will be addressed in the home study.
  13. If a licensee has a full license and a pending application with another agency, the investigation will focus on the fully licensed facility.


  1. Homes and facilities directly licensed by CA
    The complaint investigator or DLR licensor will:  
    1. Review the following case and provider information as applicable:
      1. Case numbers associated with the provider.
      2. Case and provider notes.
      3. Intakes attached to the Person ID numbers to include the child.
      4. Incident reports and any past compliance agreements.
    2. Collaborate with the licensor if the complaint investigator is someone other than the licensor.
    3. Send intake to law enforcement if a crime has been alleged.
    4. Notify the appropriate Tribe if the intake involves an identified child who is of Indian ancestry.
    5. Notify the licensee of the following at the earliest possible time that does not jeopardize the investigation:
      1. Allegations in the intake.
      2. Investigation process and timelines.
      3. Information about Foster Intervention and Retention Support Team (FIRST) or other supports if the allegation is against a foster home.
    6. Contact the referrer to confirm the information in the intake and gather additional details.
    7. If the child has a worker, notify the child’s worker of the allegation and invite the worker to the child interview.The complaint investigator will determine the interview questions.
    8. Interview the identified child(ren) individually. A third party (not named in the intake) may be present if requested by the child.
    9. Conduct private interviews of all individuals with relevant information (foster parents, staff, verbal foster children, etc.)
    10. Document all interviews in provider notes.
    11. Obtain approval from a supervisor to not interview an identified child or a child with relevant information when circumstances merit it.The supervisor must document approval in a provider note.
    12. Maintain ongoing communication with the assigned child’s worker of any issues affecting a child’s permanency, safety, and well-being.
    13. Complaint investigations may include:
      1. Interviews of the assigned child worker(s) for the children currently or previously in the foster home or facility.
      2. Interviews with children not in the Department's custody (parental consent required).
      3. Collateral contacts, including, but not limited to:
        1. Foster child's therapist
        2. Foster child's medical providers
        3. Foster child's teachers/school counselors
        4. Professionals providing services to the foster parent
          Some of these collaterals may require a signed release of information. A release of information signed by youth over age 13 in CA custody is required for mental health and substance abuse treatment providers providing services to the child.
    14. Require the licensee to complete an assessment(s) if needed and identify the issues to be assessed. DLR may specify the provider and require the licensee to pay for the evaluation.
    15. Staff with the supervisor and any relevant individual(s) if new information creates:
      1. Cause to re-refer to CA intake or law enforcement.
      2. Placement reconsideration by the child's social worker.
      3. Cause for action related to licensing or placement.
      4. Cause to re-assess safety.
  2. Foster homes certified by a Child Placing Agency (CPA)
    The regional licensor will:
    1. Be responsible for investigative activity including directing and providing support and assistance to the CPA staff.
    2. Send intake to law enforcement if a crime has been alleged.
    3. Notify the appropriate Tribe if the intake involves an identified child who is of Indian ancestry.
    4. Review the provider history.
    5. Communicate the following to CPA staff:
      1. Intake allegation(s). Note: Do not provide a hard copy of the intake to CPA staff.
      2. Potential licensing violation(s).
      3. Specific parties to be interviewed by CPA staff. Regional licensors may attend the interviews as needed.
    6. Inform CPA staff that if a child discloses abuse and neglect during the investigation, the CPA staff only collects as much information as needed for a CPS intake. He or she will not conduct a child forensic interview. CPA staff will call CA intake to report the new information.
    7. Determine and document the findings in FamLink.
    8. Determine whether the violation can be corrected. Collaborate with the CPA staff to complete a Compliance Agreement DCYF 10-248 with the foster family remediating each of the “valid” findings.
    9. If the licensee remains out of compliance with minimum licensing requirements (MLRs) or the compliance agreement does not remedy the deficiency, supervisory staffing and additional licensing action may be merited.
  3. Closing complaints on homes directly licensed by CA:
    1. The complaint investigator must notify his or her supervisor of the completion of the licensing complaint investigation.
    2. For “not valid” finding(s), the complaint investigator’s supervisor must review all documentation, complete the approval process in FamLink and send a findings letter to the licensee informing them of the “not valid” finding.
    3. For “valid” finding(s):
      1. The complaint investigator’s supervisor will:
        1. Review the information within the provider action.
        2. Document review in a provider note.
        3. Communicate to the licensor and the licensor’s supervisor the “valid” finding.
      2. The licensor will develop a compliance agreement in collaboration with the licensee when he or she is notified of the “valid” finding. The licensor may ask the complaint investigator for input on the compliance agreement. The compliance agreement will:
        1. Address the specific WAC violation(s).
        2. Include a completion date for all specific action items.
        3. Be signed by the licensee and uploaded into FamLink.
        4. Be monitored by the licensor.
      3. The licensing supervisor will complete the approval process in FamLink when the compliance agreement is completed and the deficiency is remedied.
      4. If the licensee remains out of compliance with MLRs or the compliance agreement does not remedy the deficiency, supervisory staffing and additional licensing action may be merited.
  4. Closing complaints assigned to Regional Licensors
    1. The regional licensor selects “complete” on the provider action.
    2. For all “not valid” findings, the supervisor must review all documentation, complete the approval process in FamLink and send the findings letter to the licensee.
    3. For a “valid” finding(s), the supervisor must review the information within the provider action.The review is documented in a provider note by the reviewing supervisor.
    4. The regional licensor will upload the compliance agreement in FamLink and monitor until completion. The compliance agreement includes the following:
      1. Specific WAC determined to be in violation.
      2. A completion date for all specific action items.
      3. Licensee signature.
    5. The regional licensor’s supervisor will approve the provider action in FamLink upon completion of the compliance agreement, unless other action is being taken. If the licensee remains out of compliance with MLRs, additional licensing action may be merited.



Licensing complaint investigations are an opportunity to provide training and technical assistance through a supportive and collaborative approach.

Government to government relationships must be respected when working with Tribal CPAs and facilities. Follow Tribal Agreements when interviewing Tribal children in a CA licensed foster home, private agency foster home, or group care facility.

WAC 388-145
WAC 388-147 
WAC 388-148