New Department of Child Safety is Created
Children’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.