Thursday, April 21, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.
Embattled child-welfare leader resigns
By Nick Perry and Jonathan Martin
sSeattle Times staff reporter
Uma Ahluwalia faced budget problems.
The head of the state's child-welfare system has resigned amid growing criticism for blowing the budget at a time the agency is under fire for a series of high-profile child deaths.
Uma Ahluwalia was seen by many as a smart, energetic newcomer when she arrived 19 months ago to oversee 9,000 foster-care children and a $450 million budget at the Children's Administration, a division of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
But just two days into her new job, 2-year-old Rafael Gomez of Ephrata died of child abuse. More deaths followed, including the starvation and dehydration of Kent brothers Raiden and Justice Robinson last November. A recent report into the brothers' deaths points to critical lapses by Child Protective Services (CPS), which is under the Children's Administration.
But the most damaging blow to Ahluwalia's personal leadership occurred last month when it became clear she overspent the budget by $12 million. That prompted DSHS leaders to announce spending cutbacks and to take the unusual step of removing Ahluwalia's budget authority.