New data from the Arizona Department of Economic Security shows the number of children in foster care at an all-time high of 12,649 at the end of March. In just the first three months of 2012, the number of foster children grew by more than 1,200 — far more than the growth during all of 2011.
This growth reflects the extreme stress in so many families and communities and the extreme budget cuts in prevention that leave struggling families with nowhere to turn. The infrastructure of Child Protective Services falls far short of what is needed to respond to such intense demands. Workloads for the staff are so overwhelming that more than 10,000 reports of abuse and neglect that came in during the second half of 2011 still had incomplete investigations by April 2012. Simply put, we are not meeting expectations to make sure that children are safe and move to a permanent home.
The problems of child abuse and neglect are intense and difficult. But there are answers and actions that can strengthen families and protect children. As candidates for the Arizona state legislature ask for your vote this summer, ask them what their priorities will be to protect children. Tell them you will choose candidates — in both the primary and the general election — who step up to take responsibility to prevent child abuse and to reconnect children with safe and loving families.
For more real-life stories about Child Protective Services, visit Saving Arizona’s Children. This is a year-long project of the Arizona Republic, azcentral.com and 12 News that examines the condition of Arizona’s children.