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New Department of Child Safety is Created

Smiling hispanic girl smallChildren’s Action Alliance congratulates Governor Brewer and state senators and representatives for passing two new laws this week to protect children and strengthen families.

These new laws create and fund a stand-alone Department of Child Safety with internal and external accountability features.  The laws create a framework to respond to and reduce child abuse and neglect with both social work and law enforcement tools. 

The new budget focuses on addressing the backlog of 14,000+ inactive cases and adding child safety staff to reduce caseloads.  It also uses existing funding to lift the enrollment freeze in child care, provide child care assistance to 1,000 more children while their parents go to work, and re-design the waiting list so kids can participate when a spot opens up.  Click here to see the updated budget chart.

The plan would have been stronger with immediate funding  to prevent new backlogs in the child safety system and turn around the growing trends in reports of abuse and neglect and foster care.  Senator Leah Landrum Taylor sponsored an amendment that passed with bipartisan support to add $3 million for effective family support services.  Unfortunately House Speaker Andy Tobin and Senate President Andy Biggs strenuously opposed this policy, so the amendment was taken off.

During this first year, we should expect to see reductions in the number of inactive cases, growth in the number of filled positions, and reductions in the average caseloads for child safety workers.  We should also expect to see more effective and consistent policies and best practices within the agency.

Special thanks to Governor Brewer and her policy staff, to Representatives Debbie McCune Davis and Kate Brophy McGee for their never-ending energy and determination to make this work, to Senators Leah Landrum Taylor and Nancy Barto for their leadership , and to the whole workgroup and staff for creating a successful plan.  We send our deep appreciation to the dedicated professionals in the new Department who are doing this work every day to protect children. 

Extra thanks to all of you for speaking up for children in voices loud and clear.  You made the difference.

Our success in better protecting children will take continued work, determination, and oversight and will depend on sustained commitment from the next governor and legislature.  A much stronger focus on family services will be needed to truly keep children safer and to reduce the trauma and extreme costs of abuse and neglect. 

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Affordable Care Act and Arizona Kids

aca and az childrenThe first open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act ended on March 31, 2014 with a strong showing. Nationally, 8.1 million people signed up for a health plan through the Marketplace. Across Arizona, community Navigators and Assisters worked long hours in the final weeks without turning anyone away and the results reflected their efforts. In Arizona, 120,000 people signed up for Marketplace plans and an additional 99,000 people signed up for Medicaid. Of the 120,000 people in Arizona signed up for a Marketplace plan, 26,000 or 21% were kids under 18. Click here to find detailed information on Arizona’s Marketplace results.

Those who have missed the open enrollment period, may still qualify for affordable coverage. Navigator and Assisters continue to help consumers who are experiencing special circumstances enroll and AHCCCS enrollment remains open all year. For the Marketplace, special situations such as divorce, job loss, or loss of health insurance, may qualify people to sign up for a Marketplace plan despite the end of open enrollment. Despite the deadline for the Marketplace, families are also encouraged to meet with a local assister to see whether they qualify for AHCCCS. The 211 hotline will continue to operate and refer consumers to agencies that can help with both Marketplace and AHCCCS.

We are pleased with the strong turnout for health coverage this year, but there remains more work ahead given that over 215,000 children in Arizona were uninsured in 2012. We need your help to get the word out. In the coming months and during the next open enrollment period, Children’s Action Alliance will be conducting presentations in the community to raise awareness, educate, and link consumers to affordable health coverage. If you know of groups that are interested in this free service to inform people about the Marketplace and AHCCCS, please email us at caa@azchildren.org.