An abbreviated version of this column appeared in the Arizona Republic on April 7, 2014
In his April 3 commentary, Bob Robb suggests child welfare advocates look to First Things First, not our state leaders, to fund programs that strengthen families and prevent abuse. We represent those child welfare advocates – people and programs that help keep kids safe, healthy and learning – and we’d like to point out a few facts that Mr. Robb missed (or perhaps forgot).
Since 2009, the state budget has been cut in many areas, including programs that protect our most vulnerable children. Those programs often keep difficult situations from becoming harmful to children. Not surprisingly, reports of child abuse or neglect have skyrocketed in the same time frame.
Over the past five years, FTF has done its part to strengthen families. First Things First’s funds – as intended by voters – strengthen families and support the health and education of young kids through programs like child care scholarships so kids can be safe and learning while their parents work; in-home support for families most at risk; and, community-based education for parents, grandparents and other caregivers.
Taking these programs away from one group of struggling children and families in order to help another group does not help more children. We must invest more to keep more children safe.
State lawmakers are currently deadlocked on budget proposals, but there is one thing that all the proposals approved so far have in common: they include funds to investigate abuse and neglect, but no additional funding to prevent it.
Claiming that there is no money in the budget to pay for programs that reduce violence, promote school readiness and keep families working is disingenuous. In truth, it is far more costly to keep up with the consequences of not funding prevention – like increased abuse and neglect, remedial education and jails.
It’s a matter of priorities. Voters elected the Legislature to tackle our state’s toughest problems and to make budget decisions that reflect what Arizonans say they want. It’s time for the Legislature to hear us and to live up to its responsibility to help keep our kids safe and learning.
Rebecca Ruffner, Executive Director
Prevent Child Abuse Arizona
Christine Scarpati, CEO
Child Crisis Center
Darlene Newsom, CEO
UMOM New Day Centers
Rev. Martha Seaman, President
Valley Interfaith Project
Ginger Ward, CEO
Southwest Human Development
Tony Penn, President and CEO
United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona
Dana Wolfe Naimark, President and CEO
Children’s Action Alliance
Susie Huhn, CEO
Casa de los Niños
Susan Jacobs, Executive Director
Association for Supportive Child Care