Arizona – Abused children continue to die

Arizona - Abused children continue to dieArizona’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.

Two years ago, the sound of children singing drifted up from the lobby as Gov. Jan Brewer’s Child Safety Task Force met at the Capitol. They weren’t the voices of ghosts. But they could have been.

The task force was formed after the beating deaths of children whose lives might have been saved if Arizona’s Child Protective Services lived up to its name.

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.

Arizona is in the outrage phase now. But Cps is not going to get better until the people of Arizona stay focused and demand real change. We need sustained – not sporadic – efforts.

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

Christina Tutt: passionate rescuer of orphans spreads message of hope

c3a365b594fd5ddb767518b0bfe4734fIt is one thing to speak out about the evils of the World. It's quite another to physically address them in your everyday life. Christina Tutt does both daily. Her passion for the nearly 150 million orphans of the World permeates her conversations, Facebook posts, and blog; and when you step into her home you see she's not just talking the talk. Her beautiful family includes 4 birth children and 4 orphans--rescued from the foster care system, the projects, and her own community.

Her first foray into orphan rescue came through the CPS and the foster care system roughly 5 years ago. She and her husband, Trevor, a bearhug in human form whom the children affectionately call Pop, felt a call from God to become certified as a foster family through CPS. Just 7 days after they were licensed, a call came from a local caseworker who offered them a baby girl who was born addicted to cocaine. That little girl, who was also exposed to copious amounts of nicotine and alcohol in utero, is now a thriving member of the family and a daily reminder of the promise God made to Christina soon after that first descision to pursue orphan rescue.

"As I was praying, God told me we would receive a bi-racial baby girl who was addicted to drugs and that she would thrive and never leave our home," Christina often relates to people new to the concept, "our Bailey Rose has been with us since she was 6 days old and she is definitely thriving!"

4a9951e51d51817da06c330d630b910bBailey, a rambuctious ball of energy, was legally adopted into the Tutt family on National Adoption Awareness Day in November of 2008.

As she became more and more familiar with the system, Christina began to reach out and help parents who were at risk for losing their children to foster care. Her reasoning, it is far better to give parents the tools they need to raise their children, rather than fill the system with even more broken children. She volunteers at her church's foster and adopt ministry, Ohana, which also provides parenting classes for at-risk families in the community. Christina also plugged herself into local foster care support groups and offers respite care for other foster parents.

That networking is what lead to the rescue of two of her children from a housing project in Fort Worth two years ago. Their 20 year old mother was incarcerated, leaving them with grandparents who had child abuse convictions and who often left the children (then 4 and 1 years old) alone. Their aunt rescued them, but she had just aged out of foster care herself and had no home. They were literally about to be on the street when Christina heard of their plight on a local fostering chat group.

"Trevor and I agreed that we would take children however they came to us, and that includes picking them up from a stranger in a Wendy's parking lot with only 3 hours notice."

0fb96851e51cf016baa841ff35043fddThe Tutts had the children's aunt report the incident Child Protective Services and then CPS got in touch with the children's mother, who is still incarcerated, to set up guardianship. The children were underweight and filled with fear. The respect and love of the family they found themselves in is obvious when you see them now, two years later, confident, healthy, and playing alongside their siblings and friends.

Christina has sought training from UNT and SMU in order to be equipped for the special neurologial needs of the children she is raising. Their exposure to drugs, trauma, and early neglect have created a "perfect storm" for developmental and emotional disorders many foster parents try to avoid. Unlike many parents seeking "perfect" children, Christina does just the opposite.

We very much want God to bring our new children, the children that He wants to be in our family, so we are open to whatever children He sends. Because of our experience with our children, we are specially equipped to handle children with special needs. In fact, we look for children with those special needs because there are so many children out there languishing in foster care because people don't want to adopt a child who has extra challenges. It isn't for everyone, but it is definitely for us!

a417eadc1bcc76a48245a5c6e2da2385Their care for the parents of the children they rescue is just as impressive as their care for the children themselves. Christina and Trevor set up safe boundaries from which contact can be maintained, and pray for the family members of their children.

Christina's confidence-building of the children in her care is evident when you see the respect in their eyes. She speaks life and hope and a future into their ears every day. They are not the product of a mistake or a broken past, their parents bad life choices do not follow them. They are sons and daughters who are loved, blessed, and chosen. They can choose the path they want to take, one of responsibility and respect and good choices, instead of perpetuating the cycle of violence, neglect, and abuse they were brought out of.

Her love and heart for orphans was manifested in another way this past Easter, when Christina got her daughter's scouting organization involved in a service project to take gift baskets of baby clothes, wipes, toys and blankets to needy babies at in the newborn nursery at Parkland. Christina delivers baskets every Easter to Parkland, remembering when her daughter Bailey came to them from Parkland just 6 days old with nothing other than the tee shirt she was wearing.

It's a blessing to the parents who have nothing for their new babies, or to the foster parents who are receiving these babies into their homes, often with just an hour or two of notice. It is special for that child to have something tangible in the future that shows they were loved from the start, they were cared for by someone from the beginning.

That someone who cares for you from the start, in the Tutt home, is Jesus Christ. Christina credits God with the call, the strength, and the vision for what they do.

"It is the responsibility of the followers of Jesus to care for orphans. It is right there, over and over, in the Bible. There are so many parallels that God draws for us in the salvation message about adoption and redemption. Jesus himself used that analogy when she told his followers in John 14:18: “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.”"

Next on the agenda? Ohana Ministries Christmas party for some of the thousands of children in foster care in the DFW metroplex. Christina will be there with bells on, and a van full of foster kids in tow.

If you would like to learn more about caring for orphans, you can go to Arrow Ministries Web Site, or get in touch with someone at Ohana through their Facebook page.

Title IV E fraud

Here's a phone number for Title IV E fraud.
Burmese Dissidents And Exiles Detained In Mae ThailandIf you have had a child removed by CPS/JV court and they stated that 'reasonable efforts were made' to prevent or eliminate the need for removal - but reasonable efforts were NOT made - they are committing fraud to get federal funding. PLEASE report it to the feds. The number is 800-447-8477 then option #5. I made my report and it only took a few minutes. I told the intake gal that this is not an isolated incident (because it isn't). There is strength in numbers, so do report this if it happened to you. Having the names of the SS workers and judge who did it will make it go quicker (also their contact numbers).

Arizona Parent Caims CPS Moved Child 17 Times

PHOENIX (KSAZ) - A harsh spotlight has been shining on Child Protective Services the last few weeks. Now a parent steps forward to talk about her experience with the agency -- sadly, it's not a good one.   She worries about the thousands of children trapped in the system, though there might be better options out there.
It was an emergency when 5-week-old Aurora came to David and April Snow in their Phoenix home nearly five years ago.

"The biological mother had some substance abuse issues and so we had our work cut out for us at the get go," said April.

CPS placed the baby with the Snows because Aurora is April's cousin.
From the time she was a baby to when she was taken four years later, Aurora was moved by CPS 17 times, according to April.
"She had 17 transitions in and out of our home, in and out of shelters, in and out of emergency placement, in and out of other foster homes," said April.
Aurora was placed with the Snows in February of 2009, but 13 months later, April says CPS deemed that the biological mother was able to care for her daughter again. The mother had since given birth to a baby boy and had moved to Tucson.
The Snows had to let Aurora go, but disagreed with CPS' decision.
"They returned Aurora to her biological mother, who now had a younger child and they were all homeless," said April, who adds that she could tell Aurora was losing her sparkle.
"My husband used to drive down every week to see them and would pick up Aurora and take her to eat, go to the store, buy food, clothes, whatever he could do because you hands are tied."
April says on one visit in July of 2010, they saw Aurora had cigarette burns on her.  They called CPS.
"They would reassure us everything was fine and no, the mother didn't burn the child on purpose.. the wind blew the cigarette, you know, things to us that weren't right."
The very next month, April says something finally happened in Tucson with Aurora's biological mother that could not be explained away or ignored.
"Her biological mother stabbed the boyfriend multiple times in the hotel room and when Tucson Police responded, they found both children in there.. blood everywhere and they removed the children."
Aurora went back to the Snows, but she was not the same child who had left them.
"Aurora who had left our home developmentally on task no longer spoke, she only grunted and screamed.. she had completely shut down," said April.
CPS would remove Aurora one more time from the Snows in September of 2011 when the couple said they couldn't take both Aurora and her baby brother -- just her.
Then a fourth CPS worker got the case, who April says was their guardian angel.
"She wasn't burned out, she was one of the good ones that still had a fight in her."
April says the CPS worker listened to their whole story, connected the dots, severed parental rights of the mother to Aurora and her baby brother.
The brother went to another family member and in March of 2012, the Snows officially adopted Aurora.
A happy ending on the surface, but the Snows will tell you the pictures of their adorable little girl with a pink feather boa doesn't reveal the whole truth.
"She wakes up every night crying.  Two nights ago, we found her in a closet hiding and these are things that are long lasting.  She used to scream every time the doorbell would ring and hide because she would be afraid," said April.
Aurora is in counseling, but the Snows know the damage runs deep.
They worry about the thousands of children in Arizona that are either trapped in a nightmare of abuse or bouncing around the system within a community that can't find a way to save them.
We asked CPS about the Snow's case.  The couple feels the agency can't or won't look at the big picture and do what's best for children in crisis.
CPS responded that it cannot comment on cases like this one.


Read more:

Adoption Incentives Could Be Reauthorized by 2014

Child Kidnapping

Child Kidnapping

The Senate Finance Committee will mark up a bill today that could usher in a reauthorization of federal adoption incentives before Congress breaks for the holidays.

The bill, called The Supporting At-Risk Youth Act, would also limit the use of long-term foster care and, for the first time, require states to track and report on failed or disrupted adoptions.

The bill was introduced by committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana), who circulated a draft bill on adoption incentives in early fall. This bill combines his framework with sections of a child welfare law introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and revisions to the Child Support Enforcement process and sections of other proposed legislation

Among the changes in the law:

New incentives: Would increase the adoption incentive for “special needs” children from $4,000 to $4,500, and would create a new, $4,000 incentive payment for completion of guardianship arrangements for foster children.

New calculation: Baucus would convert that incentive calculations to a system that gauged annual performance against the average performance in the three previous years.

Tracking failed adoption: Within 12 months of the bill’s passage, the Department of Health and Human Services would be required to “promulgate final regulations providing for states to collect and report information regarding children who enter foster care because their adoptions or foster child guardianships disrupt or are dissolved.”

Ending APPLA: The bill would prohibit federal reimbursement for foster youths under the age of 16 for whom the official permanency goal is Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA), the federal term for emancipation as opposed to adoption, reunification or a guardianship.

APPLA was established as an allowable permanency option under federal law in the late 1990s, and was meant to serve as a rare exception to plans for reunification or adoption. Instead, it has become the official goal for at least 10 percent and perhaps a quarter of the 400,000-plus children in foster care each year.

“We wanted it to be a last resort,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) at a roundtable discussion about APPLA last year. “Over time,” it has become “an obstacle to reunification or adoption.”

A bill to reauthorize adoption incentives has already passed the House, in a unanimous 402-0 vote in October that took many by surprise. That bill, which has bipartisan support, would cut the basic incentive grant and eliminate the “special needs” award while keeping the award for older youth and creating a new $1,000 award for guardianships.

Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, saw his APPLA restriction attached to the bill along with other sections requiring states to provide documentation and special case planning services for older foster youth at risk of becoming involved with sex trafficking.

Other sections of his bill, which would drastically limit federal expenditures on long-term group care for foster youth, were not included in this legislation.

John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change

A version of this column originally appeared in