BUDGET LEAVES UNFINISHED BUSINESS FOR KIDS
The House and Senate approved a budget last night that still doesn’t do enough for Arizona’s children and families, but child advocates like you will still have a chance to push for more money to protect children and prevent child abuse and neglect.
The approved legislative budget provides funding for 50 more CPS case workers and 20 more investigators in the Office of Child Welfare Investigations. The CPS staff is lower than what Governor Brewer asked for in her budget and much lower than needed to successfully protect children. This budget does not have a single penny to prevent child abuse and neglect so fewer families ever need CPS.
Even lawmakers realized they passed a budget that leaves a lot of unfinished business. House Speaker Andy Tobin indicated he expects the legislature to have a special session regarding the Division for Child Safety and Family Services. According to The Arizona Republic, Brewer Chief of Staff Scott Smith said that the Governor would be calling for more money for child welfare, noting “(y)ou’ve got to look at the backlog, prevention and treatment and child care subsidies.”
Within a few weeks, Governor Brewer’s CPS work group will provide its recommendations on the structure and responsibilities of the new Division for Child Safety and Family Services (CSFS). This will give lawmakers information about new funding, improved staffing levels, and family supports like child care vouchers.
Legislators officially pledged to revisit the budget needs of CSFS in language included in the FY 15 budget: “It is the intent of the legislature to reexamine the budget in conjunction with the legislation that will create a successor agency, in order to meet the needs of that successor agency. The needs include staffing, automation, support services, placement, early intervention services and any needs deemed essential for the successor agency services and the safety of children in this state.”
So while we can be hopeful, we can’t afford to be complacent. It’s up to Arizonans across the state to hold Governor Brewer and state lawmakers accountable to their commitments to kids.
Stay tuned and be ready to take action…