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DES REQUESTS MORE CPS STAFF; NO $ FOR PREVENTION

The Department of Economic Security (DES) has submitted its budget request to Governor Brewer for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2014 (fiscal year 2015). There are four issues addressing needs in Child Protective Services that together would add 444 staff at a cost of $115.8 million in general fund dollars. (See the four issues summarized below.)

This large amount is requested to handle the skyrocketing number of incoming calls and reports and to find abused and neglected children safe places to stay. The size of this budget request makes it clear that CPS will continue to be a high priority for Governor Brewer this year. Her leadership will be critical in strengthening CPS. Despite the large amount in the budget request, however, there are important issues that are completely missing.

we can do better 2There is nothing in the request to help the state implement the reforms called for in legislation that passed this year, creating an “alternative response” plan so families in crisis can get help in the community when a full CPS investigation isn’t needed.

There is nothing in the DES budget request to restore support for families or to prevent the need for foster care. There is no funding request for TANF benefits for the poorest mothers and children, for grandparents raising grandkids, for child care help for struggling families, for strategies to fight hunger and homelessness, for family mentoring to prevent abuse and neglect. Without any priority at all on these family issues, Arizona will be condemned to suffer the trauma and expense of extraordinary growth in children needing foster care and a continued shortage of foster families to care for them.

We can do better. Giving parents places to turn for help offers the key to safer children and stronger families in the future. Children’s Action Alliance looks forward to working with partners and lawmakers to address strategies for family support before a budget is finalized. Stay tuned for updates and alerts on how you can help Arizona design a better budget for kids.

Summary of Major CPS Issues in the Department of Economic Security Budget Request

  • 235 case managers, attorneys and support staff to handle the projected increase in the number of children coming into foster care; increased funding for shelters, group homes and other residential placements; and funds to support an anticipated increase in the number of adoptions. 
  • 159 case managers and support staff to address caseloads that far exceed acceptable standards. The request also includes revised caseload standards for investigations and in-home and out-of-home cases. 
  • 50 staff for the Office of Child Welfare Investigations, which was created by the legislature in 2012 to investigate criminal conduct allegations. According to the request, current staffing allows the office to investigate only 17% of the reports involving potential criminal conduct.
  • Funds to replace CHILDS, the automated system that supports CPS. Dating back to the 1990s, CHILDS is outdated, cumbersome to use, and difficult to maintain.

A Plan to Worsen Child Hunger

Four of Arizona’s nine Representatives in Congress voted last week to kick Arizonans off of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps, for owning a car that is worth more than $2,000. Representatives Salmon, Schweikert, Franks, and Gosar also voted to throw families off of food stamps even if their disposable income after child care expenses fell below 130% of the poverty level ($25,389 income per year for a family of three)1.

hunger report graphic ver2 correctedThis bill in Congress, H.R. 3102, was supported by House Republicans as part of their effort to cut federal spending and get people to work. But letting Arizona families go hungry because they own a car worth a couple of thousand dollars or they earn a little bit higher income and spend a large portion of that on child care certainly doesn’t sound like a plan to get people to work. The Senate is not expected to pass this bill.

The day before the vote on this bill all of our Representatives had the chance to read a report that showed close to 28% of all Arizona families with children did not have enough money to buy the food they needed at least once in the last year. Only seven other states had higher rates of reported hunger in between the years 2008 and 2012, according to the Food Research and Action Center.

Arizona families need nutritious food and affordable child care while they are working to move up the economic ladder. Cutting federal spending only makes the US a weaker nation when it means more children grow up without basic nutrition.

1 Cuts in House Leadership SNAP Proposal Would Affect Millions of Low-Income Americans, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

CPS must do more than yank kids from parents

Child welfare system seeks more money

DES chief: Arizona CPS needs $115 million, 444 workers

ARIZONA SHOWS NO IMPROVEMENT IN CHILD POVERTY

New data released by the U.S. Census Bureau from the American Community Survey (ACS) shows that poverty in Arizona remains a top threat to children. Child poverty in Arizona is significantly more prominent than the national average. Both the overall poverty rate and child poverty rate in Arizona dropped less than half a percent between 2011 and 2012 and poverty remains significantly higher than it was before the Great Recession of 2008. In 2012, more than one out of four children in Arizona was living in poverty (family income below $18,284 for a family of three).

chart for poverty 9-19 enews story blue redOnly 44 large cities in the country showed a statistically significant increase in child poverty rates from 2011 to 2012. Phoenix and Mesa are both on this sad list. In Phoenix the rate of poor children rose from 32 to 36 percent and in Mesa the rate rose from 22 to 28 percent.

It is clear that the slow economic recovery is leaving thousands of children behind. Poverty puts children in hardworking families at high risk for hunger, untreated health problems, instability moving from place to place and school to school, learning delays, and neglect. Political and community leaders should make this a top priority because without strategic action, these high poverty rates put our future economy and workforce at high risk as well.

Click here to see the child poverty rates by city and county in Arizona and where they rank compared to cities and counties nationwide.

Join the Community Conversation on Justice

Gathering Justice Conference
sponsored by Arizona Community Action AssociationGathering-Justice-Logo-Small

Saturday, October 5, 2013 from 9:00 am to 4:00pm
Phoenix Marriott Mesa
200 N Centennial Way Mesa, AZ 85201

Individual Registration is $30; scholarships are available.
For more info or to register visit http://gatheringjustice.eventbrite.com/.

The Gathering Justice Conference is dedicated to exploring issues of injustice, connecting partners, developing tools and naming our collective vision of an Arizona built upon justice and equality. This is an interactive opportunity for families, social service workers, community organizers, local business owners, elected officials, and community members to come together, listen and be changed by one another. All people committed to seeing equity, opportunity, and hope rise in Arizona are welcome.

Scholarships are available for low-income community members and community members that face challenges that might prevent them from attending. These scholarships may include registration, gas funds, and hotel accommodations.

No Improvement in Health Insurance Coverage of Arizona’s Kids

Today the U.S. Census Bureau released new health insurance coverage data from the Current Population Survey. The most recent two year period, 2011/2012, shows that Arizona health insurance coverage for children remained unchanged from the previous two years, 2009/2010. This means that nearly a quarter of a million children or roughly 14% of all children in Arizona continue to go without health care services that health insurance provides.

english version buttonspanish version buttonChildren’s Action Alliance and our community partners are determined to increase the number of insured children and are ramping up activities to enroll eligible kids in affordable health care. Because of this coordinated community outreach, Arizona advocates will be well poised to help children get the coverage they need when open enrollment begins on October 1, 2013. In the meantime, if you or someone you know needs help finding health insurance for a child, please use our Health Care Resources Manual to get the help they need.

The Current Population Survey annually asks 100,000 households how many people in each of those households had health insurance at some point in the last year. Based on that sample it then determines how many people under 18 and 65 years of age had health insurance for every state in the last year. Because of the small sample size, two years worth of data must be averaged together to get accurate rates of coverage by state

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