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Not Enough Affordable Child Care

Lack of child care assistance is jeopardizing Arizona parents’ ability to get and keep jobs and diminishing our children’s learning opportunities during the critical early years. Currently there are no state dollars in the Department of Economic Security child care assistance budget – we rely on federal dollars alone. In their budget request for next year, DES has asked for no child care funding and there is no indication of how many children will be able to participate.

A recent report by the National Women’s Law Center reveals that despite the great importance of child care, this was the second year in a row in which the situation worsened for families in more states than it improved. The report, Downward Slide: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2012, shows that Arizona parents who are lucky enough to participate in child care assistance face a $320 monthly gap between the real life cost of child care and state reimbursement rates (for parents in Maricopa County with a four-year-old child). This 38% gap is the eighth largest in the nation.

This by itself would be bad news, but in reality the story is much worse. In 2009 the state began turning qualified working families away from child care assistance to cut state spending. In 2008 more than 27,000 children in Arizona working families received child care assistance; today that number is fewer than 9,000. There are currently nearly 8,000 children on the “waiting list” and more than 32,000 children have been turned away since the list started.

Before you vote early or on November 6, ask the state legislative and Congressional candidates in your district what they will do to open quality child care options for low-income working families.

CPS Needs Resources to Protect More Kids

State agencies recently submitted their budget requests for next fiscal year to Governor  Brewer for her review and consideration. These requests form the foundation of budget proposals and negotiations by the Governor and legislators.  The budget policies for the year will make a difference in the daily lives of children growing up in Arizona now and will shape the outcome of children’s health, education, and security for many years to come.

All Arizonans share the goal of protecting children from abuse and neglect.  Here we share highlights of the budget request for Child Protective Services.  Look for information about other state budgets in the weeks to come.

The Department of Economic Security has requested an additional $85 million in state General Fund resources. Of that amount, $54 million is an increase for Child Protective Services to respond to the growing number of reports of abuse and neglect and the skyrocketing number of children living in foster care. The number of children in foster care has increased 37% since October 2009.

Children’s Action Alliance strongly supports the request for additional staff and resources. We are also concerned about the growing gap in prevention services and services to keep children safe in their own homes. We’ll be asking every state representative and senator elected on November 6 to pay attention to these issues and respond.

DES continues to implement and explore improved procedures in CPS to protect children and eliminate wasted time and resources. With this budget request, DES clearly states that they cannot meet their mission of protecting children with current staff and resources.

The budget request includes:

  • $11 million for 200 more CPS staff to maintain current workload levels
  • $30 million to support more foster children in shelters, group homes, and residential treatment
  • $5 million for more foster homes and higher rates for special categories, such as foster families caring for older youth
  • $4 million to support more children in adoptive homes 
  • $4 million for Attorney General legal staff to handle CPS cases

We’ll keep you up-to-date as the budget process unfolds and let you know how you can get involved to better protect abused and neglected children. If you have any questions about the DES budget request, or if you would like a presentation to your organization, please call Karen McLaughlin at 602-266-0707 ext. 207.

Impact of Tax Cuts Over the Years

With one exception (2003), the Arizona legislature has passed some type of tax cut every year since 1990.In recent years have only served to exacerbate the budget shortfalls of the past and are projected to be a significant factor in future budget shortfall projections. The only relief has come from voters approving a temporary sales tax in 2010. That tax is set to expire on July 1st of 2013, however. As this chart shows we expect this drastic reduction in state revenue to contribute to some of our biggest budget shortfalls ever.

Click here for the history of revenue shortfalls through the years .