Arizona’s child-welfare system delivers recurring disasters. Only the child victims change.
Are you fed up yet?
If so, what are you prepared to do about it?
Arizona’s most vulnerable children are often doomed or reabused by the overwhelmed, inept agency you fund.
This is not news.
The voices came from a choir of children at the state’s 2011 Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, providing a poignant reminder to that task force of what childhood is supposed to be about.
Last week, the governor greeted another choir of children at this year’s tree-lighting fest.
Last week, Brewer also named a new group of high-level individuals to scrutinize Cps.
Meet the new problem, same as the old problem.
The governor’s new Child Advocate Response Examination – CARE – team is supposed to figure out why 6,500 reports to the child-abuse hot line were ignored after being marked “NI” for “not investigated.” CARE is one of three groups investigating the mass shelving of calls for help. The state departments of Economic Security and Public Safety are also looking into this.
Suggestions being put forth now as bold responses – such as state Sen. David Bradley’s idea for a separate Department of Youth Services – are not new.
More than a decade ago, former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley proposed changes that included splitting Cps from the behemoth DES. Romley renewed that call last week.
Bradley’s a Democrat. Romley’s a Republican. This is not a partisan issue.
All of Arizona weeps for children whose short, battered lives become the stuff of headlines. We all have a stake in fixing this.
Efforts to reform Cps go back many years, but there is a recurring and ineffective pattern to our collective calls for action. First comes the crisis, then the public outrage, then the task force. Before long, the public shrugs and looks away. It is, after all, a daunting and ugly problem.
It’s worth mentioning that some caseworkers put their hearts and minds into a heartbreaking, mind-bending job.
But it is critical to remember that somebody at DES developed and enabled a process that was used to set aside thousands of hotline reports before caseworkers ever saw them.
This happened at the same time the state was encouraging people to get involved and report suspected abuse and neglect.
It happened as CPS workers staggered under caseloads that are 77 percent above the state’s own standards.
It happened as Arizona experienced a larger increase in the number of children removed from their homes than any other state. There are more than 15,000 children in foster care in Arizona.
It happened as children died. The latest state Child Fatality Review found 47 percent of the 33 children who died of neglect or abuse in Arizona last year were known to child-welfare agencies in Arizona or in other states.
It happened as CPS carried a backlog of 10,000 cases that have had no attention for at least 60 days.
It happened as funding for services for children and families were cut by the Legislature.
It happened as three sisters were held captive in filthy conditions in a Tucson house that their mother and her husband turned into a living hell.
Are you fed up yet? If so, what are you prepared to do about it?
A version of this column originally appeared in www.lukesarmy.com.