Category: Legislation

Arizona’s Group Home Problem – An Opportunity Missed

Click here to watch Fostering Advocates Arizona board member, Jacob Holley, share his lived experience in group homes.

Arizona has a deep group home problem, and it is time that serious steps are taken to address it: the Department of Child Safety's (DCS's) massive over-reliance on harmful and costly group home placements. Our legislative session ended without solutions.

In Arizona, the Department of Child Safety (DCS) has an excessive reliance on group home placements, which can be harmful and expensive.  The state has the nation’s third highest rate of “congregate care” placements for foster children of all ages and places more young foster children, those under age 12, in congregate care than any other state. Congregate care includes group homes, shelters, and institutions. Experts agree that congregate care placements are harmful to the healthy development of children—especially young children—and that congregate care should only be used when there is no less restrictive setting to meet a child’s short-term need for therapeutic services.

The understanding of the harms of group care is so universal that Congress passed the Families First Family Prevention Services Act, which greatly reduces the availability of federal funds for congregate care placements. Under the Act, which went into effect in 2021, states are only reimbursed for congregate care placements for the first 14 days unless the placement is a designated Qualified Residential Treatment Program that a court has determined the child requires to meet a short-term therapeutic need. The same year that Families First went into effect, DCS settled a lawsuit that, among other things, called out Arizona’s overuse of congregate care. The settlement agreement in B.K. v. Faust, which is overseen by the court, requires DCS to take steps to reduce its use of congregate care to 10.5%, the national average, when the settlement was reached in 2021.  

Despite these two powerful incentives to reduce group care, Arizona’s rate of congregate care placements has not budged. In fact, it has gone up and with the loss of federal reimbursement dollars, the high cost of group care is straining the state’s general fund and the agency’s budget to the tune of a $22.6M shortfall, leaving few financial resources to support families and prevent the need for foster care in the first place.  

For years, DCS’s plan to reduce the use of congregate care has centered around increasing the number of foster children placed with relatives and, to a lesser extent, also increasing the number of community foster homes. A “kin-first” culture is hugely important to supporting children and to reducing the use of congregate care, and, with advocacy by Children’s Action Alliance and many others, big advancements have been made in Arizona to better support kinship caregivers. However, Arizona now places children with relatives at one of the highest rates in the nation, and that strategy on its own has not and is unlikely to stem the use of group placements.  

Additional strategies to reduce group care are available and used with success by other jurisdictions. One of those strategies is instituting DCS Director Approval for group placements. SB 1458, a CAA priority bill in partnership with Fostering Advocates Arizona, would have required DCS to get Director sign-off on the placement of any child under the age of 12 in a congregate care setting. (Remember, Arizona is an outlier, placing young children in congregate care at a rate of 11% while the national average is 3%.) Director approval, which helped the City of Philadelphia go from 1,000 children in group homes to just 255, is a strategy included in the Ending the Need for Group Placements Initiative led by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Casey Family Programs. The initiative has identified seven levers that have helped states reduce the use of congregate care. DCS is currently pulling just two of those levers. SB 1458 would have added a third, but the bill died on the House Floor in the face of opposition from the agency.  

It is time for Arizona to get serious about reducing group care. Doubling down on strategies that on their own have done nothing to reduce Arizona’s use of congregate care is certainly not enough for nearly 1,300 foster children currently in these placements, including approximately 350 children under the age of 12. DCS should be partnering with experts and jurisdictions that have successfully reduced congregate care populations and should be pulling every lever available. Arizona’s foster children deserve nothing less.  

Just six years ago, our country grieved alongside parents and children who were forcibly separated at the border, with a full two-thirds of Americans across political parties opposed to the barbaric actions. HCR2060 opens the door to repeating this shameful chapter.” -January Contreras, Children’s Action Alliance.

Children’s Action Alliance puts brain and heart power to work every day to realize the vision of an Arizona where all children and families thrive. HCR2060, an immigration bill expected to be heard this week in the Arizona Legislature, is incompatible with this vision.

Our CEO, January Contreras, recently shared some of the reasons that HCR2060 is bad for Arizona’s children. We share this editorial with you as supporters who also value the potential of every child in our state. Children’s Action Alliance remains in opposition to HCR2060, and we urge members of the legislature to vote against it.

Guest Opinion as Printed in the Arizona Daily Star on May 17, 2024

HCR2060 is not the answer

While many look to the Arizona State Legislature to tackle state priorities such as transportation, public safety, affordable housing, and education, members are also currently working to take on the federal responsibility of immigration enforcement in ways that are likely unlawful, certainly unfunded, and deeply harmful for our state.

House Concurrent Resolution 2060 (HCR2060) is a resolution that attempts to create state law and deploy local authorities for immigration enforcement. Parts of the resolution duplicate what is already in law when it comes to public benefits, but it charts new territory in criminal enforcement of unlawful presence without safeguards that exist in federal immigration policy such as barring enforcement on school campuses and in churches. HCR2060 can still be defeated by the legislature, but if passed, it will open the door to chaos that makes Arizona less safe than today.

I speak as a former prosecutor and former attorney for victims of crime. Without question, it is my experience that victims of abuse, human trafficking, and other crimes will not call local law enforcement for help when they fear that call will lead to deportation. This is backed up by cities that saw declines in reports of domestic violence and sexual assault crimes in Latino communities when anti-immigrant rhetoric and targeting was at its most extreme. The crimes were happening, victims were just too afraid to call 9-1-1. HCR2060 will decrease public safety and allow perpetrators of violence to escape being held accountable for their crimes.

I speak as a former Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Just six years ago, our country grieved alongside parents and children who were forcibly separated at the border, with a full two-thirds of Americans across political parties opposed to the barbaric actions. Today, my former HHS colleagues still serve on a Reunification Task Force dedicated to leaving no stone unturned to reunite families. The “zero tolerance” policy that unleashed this trauma continues to claim more than 1,000 children who have been deprived of the parents they were separated from. HCR2060 opens the door to repeating this shameful chapter.

Most importantly, I write this as a mother and an advocate for children. As I sat in church this week sharing in a blessing for moms, I could not help but pray for the parents and children whose lives will be torn apart if elected officials once again sanction actions that terrorize immigrant families. HCR2060 will do just that.

We must look to the right authorities for solutions to problems. Here, federal officials must reform and enforce federal immigration laws in ways that do not leave humanity and public safety behind. HCR2060 is not the answer.

January Contreras is the CEO of Children’s Action Alliance, advocating statewide for the health, safety, education, and economic well-being of children in Arizona.

Click here to access the opinion piece at the Arizona Daily Star.

The Bills That Got Away

Every year, Arizona Legislators introduce hundreds of bills, and very few of them go through the entire process to end on the Governor’s Desk for a signature. And each year, many bills never get a hearing at all. There are many good proposals to help children and families in Arizona thrive that deserve recognition and merit consideration for future legislative action. Here are some of CAA's top picks.

HB 2071, Sponsor: Laura Terech, Schools; corporal punishment; prohibition 

Hard to imagine but despite overwhelming evidence that it is harmful, Arizona law still allows corporal punishment in public and charter schools. This bill would have prohibited teachers, principals, and other school employees from using corporal punishment as a form of discipline.   

HB 2137, Sponsor: Athena Salman, Children's health insurance program; eligibility 

This bill would expand eligibility for KidsCare, the state's children’s health insurance program (CHIP), to families earning under 250% of the federal poverty level (currently 200%).  These families are working but not earning enough to afford employer-based or marketplace health insurance coverage.  This would not only decrease the number of uninsured children in Arizona, but it would save the state the money spent on uncompensated care when emergencies occur or when preventative care is avoided.  

HB 2160, Sponsor: Judy Schwiebert, School mental health professionals; academy 

We know the COVID pandemic amplified an existing mental health crisis across the country, and it has been very prevalent in school-aged children and adolescents. Arizona is already facing a shortage of school personnel such as teachers, bus drivers, and aides. This bill would have created a School Mental Health Professional Academy to incentivize and train school psychologists, social workers, and counselors, who are often the first line of defense when school-age children are struggling.   

HB 2246, Sponsor: Oscar De Los Santos, AHCCCS; eligibility; immigration status  

Currently, a person’s immigration status might prevent them from qualifying for Medicaid health care insurance benefits, even if they meet all of the other criteria.  This bill would have removed this barrier reducing Arizona’s uninsured rate and the costs associated with uncompensated emergency and preventative care.  

HB 2365, Sponsor: Leezah Sun, Foster children; adulthood; stipend 

When children age out of the foster care system, the transition to adulthood can be difficult. Unless they enter extended foster care, they lose most of the resources and supports provided to them and are expected to care for themselves.  In an attempt to help ease that transition, this bill would have provided all children who are in the care of the Department of Child Safety when they turn eighteen, a monthly stipend of $1200/month until they reach the age of twenty-one.  

HB 2407, Sponsor: Laura Terech, Preschool pilot program; appropriation 

Children who attend high-quality preschool programs are more likely to enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed. Unfortunately, many families most in need are unable to find or afford to place their children in these programs.  This bill would have established a school district-based Preschool Pilot Program and set aside $3M in funding to pay for it.   

HB 2685, Sponsor: Alma Hernandez, Appropriation; Child Care Assistance 

For families to be self-sufficient, they need safe, reliable, and quality places for their children to go while they are working.  One year of infant care can often cost as much as a year’s tuition to a state university, leaving families to choose between earning more or staying out of the workforce to care for their children.  This bill would have appropriated $30M to the Department of Economic Security to help low-income working families afford child care in home, center, or faith-based settings.   

SB 1267, Sponsor: Christine Marsh, Eligibility; children's health insurance program 

 Similar to HB 2137, this bill would have increased eligibility for the children’s health insurance program to 300% of the federal poverty level. Again, reducing the number of uninsured children and reducing the costs associated with uncompensated care. 

SB 1643, Sponsor: Sally Ann Gonzales, Indian child welfare; custody proceedings 

This bill would have codified the protections of federal The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in state law. ICWA was passed in 1978 to combat the systematic separation of Native American children from their parents, families, and tribal communities following a long history of forcibly removing Native American children from their homes and sending them to boarding schools and non-Native adoptive families. The purpose of ICWA is to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” (25 U.S.C. § 1902). ICWA requires child welfare agencies to go to greater lengths to preserve families before Native American children can be separated from their parents, provides a preference for the placement of Native American foster children with relatives and tribal members, and allows tribal courts to take jurisdiction over foster care cases from state courts.  With a Supreme Court challenge to ICWA pending, a number of states have passed laws to preserve these important protections for Native American children, families, and tribes.   

News you can use: CAA Priority Bills

Arizona’s state legislative session is in full swing. So far this session 1625 Bills, Memorials and Resolutions have been introduced for consideration.  Each year, Children’s Action Alliance selects bills a dozen or so bills that we give our top priority. They are introduced by both Republicans and Democrats and from all parts of the state. Some are bills we support, others we oppose. They cover a range of topics that impact children from birth until they reach adulthood. Our priorities are chosen based on several factors including (but not limited to) whether they align to our previously published Legislative Agenda, what we believe might actually gain traction, the potential outcome or impact and most importantly- what the community and the evidence tell us is best for children.  These are by no means the only proposals we are working on. We just think they reflect an overall snapshot of what we think will help us reach our goal of an Arizona where all children and families thrive.  At the end of the session, we will score lawmakers on whether their priorities aligned to ours.  

Check out our bill tracking here.

Mid Session Update

The Spring season in Arizona is already well underway. Everything is blooming, the weather is warming, delayed Spring Training has given way to Opening Day and for those who pay attention to what is happening at the Capitol, we enter a new phase of the Legislative Session. Each year the session begins on the second Monday in January and is SUPPOSED to adjourn “sine die” (terminate for the year) no later than Saturday of the week in which the 100th day from the start of the session falls. This year, the 100th day is April 19th and that means the session should end no later than April 23rd.

Though this is the benchmark, in recent years that has rarely happened. This year, like many in the past, most of the committee work and regular legislative activity has ended or is wrapping up, but we are still awaiting the presentation of a budget proposal. And as of now, it doesn’t look like that is going to happen prior to April 23rd. During this lull in activity, we want to highlight some of the proposals that would improve the lives of children and families in Arizona that were either never taken into consideration or that died without making much progress.

Hundreds of bills are introduced each year and many die at some point during the process. This can happen when a bill fails to get assigned to committees or to a floor vote, when a committee chair fails to give it a hearing, or when it doesn’t have enough votes at any step along the way.

1295 Appropriation, Child Care, Waitlist- Senator Christine Marsh

Would have increased families' access to high-quality early learning programs by providing $5.7M to First Things First to expand access to Quality First, the Arizona Quality Improvement and Ratings system for child care and preschool programs in Arizona. This bill was assigned to two committees but never received a hearing.

SB 1635 Community schools Pilot Program, Appropriation (The David Bradley Community Schools Act)- Senator JD Mesnard

Establishes a pilot program housed within the Arizona Department of Education. Participants will partner with one or more local community-based organizations with the goal to coordinate academic, social, and health services to reduce barriers to learning and improve the quality of education for students in the community. The pilot would be named in memory of former State Senator David Bradley who for many years was a champion of children’s issues in Arizona. The bill had bipartisan support and was assigned to two committees in the Senate but never received a hearing.

HB2125 Electronic Smoking Devices, Retail Licensing- Representative Michelle Udall

Protects children in Arizona by bringing the state into compliance with federal law that regulates age requirements, penalties, restrictions, and licensing requirements relating to the purchase and sale of tobacco and vaping products. This bill moved through two committees in the House but stalled out before receiving a final floor vote.

HB2139 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women- Representative Jennifer Jermaine

Established and outlined participation on a study committee on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The State Legislature has previously made a commitment to addressing this crisis in Arizona. There was an existing study committee but legislation that passed in 2021 as a part of the budget that made changes to it was overturned in court as part of the ruling that disallowed multiple subjects to be included in budget bills. Despite having bipartisan co-sponsors and support, this bill never received a hearing.

HB2205- CHIP Eligibility FPL Increase, Representative Kelli Butler

Would have expanded access to the state's Children’s Health Insurance Program (called KidsCare) to more low-income working families. This bill was a CAA Priority Bill but it was never assigned to a committee.

HB2206/HB2306 Dental Care-Pregnant Women- Representatives Kelli Butler & Jennifer Jermaine

This pair of bills would have allowed pregnant people on AHCCCS (the state's Medicaid program) to receive comprehensive dental health care benefits. Pregnancy can increase oral health problems that if untreated, can lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

HB2212 Schools, Immunizations, Registered Nurses, Posting- Representative Kelli Butler

Aimed to arm parents with important information about health and safety in schools, including whether schools had a Registered Nurse, how health and safety issues are addressed, and publicly posting the immunization report school districts are already required to submit to the state. This bill was never assigned to a committee.

HB2311 School Health Program, Appropriation- Representative Jennifer Jermaine

Would have promoted and enhanced healthy and effective learning environments for all students by supporting the costs of placing school nurses and psychologists on campuses. This bill was assigned to three committees in the House but never received a hearing.

Last week, we took the legislative lull between committee work and the presentation of the proposed budget to tell you about some bills that would have improved the lives of children and families in Arizona that were either not considered or died without making much headway. As the pause at the Capitol continues so does our midsession update. If last week’s update could be titled “the good”, this week can be called the “bad and the ugly.” These are misguided proposals that harm children and families, and unfortunately have either already been signed or are well on their way to becoming law. The common theme running through these bills: Preserving prejudice in the name of protecting children.

SB 1138 Irreversible Gender Reassignment Surgery, Minors—Senator Petersen (Status: Signed by Governor)

Prohibits physicians from providing irreversible gender reassignment surgery to minors regardless of whether the procedure is recommended by the child’s physician or consented to by the child’s parents.

SB 1165 Interscholastic, Intramural Athletics, Biological Sex—Senator Barto (Status: Signed by Governor)

Requires all public schools, and any private schools that compete against them, to expressly designate their interscholastic teams based on the biological sex of the participating students.

SB 1399 Adoption, Foster Care, Religious Discrimination—Senator Kerr (Status: Signed by Governor)

Gives faith-based foster care and adoption agencies broad license to discriminate based on the organization’s religious beliefs without any threat of lawsuits and allows foster parents to impose their own religious beliefs on foster children who are temporarily in their care.

HB 2086 DHS, School Immunizations, Exclusions—Representative Osborne (Status: Pending final vote in the Senate)

Would prohibit requiring immunization from COVID-19 or HPV as a condition of school attendance.

HB 2112 Classroom Instruction, Race, Ethnicity, Sex—Representative Udall (Status: Pending final vote in the Senate)

Would prohibit teachers from discussing societal issues related to race, ethnicity, and sex. Would also subject teachers to disciplinary action, including suspension or revocation of their teacher’s certificate, and subject school districts to civil legal penalties for subsequent or continued violations.

HB 2616 Mask Mandates, Minors, Parental Consent—Representative Chaplik (Status: Passed Senate and pending transmittal to Governor)

Bars any government entity, school or charter school from requiring a mask or face covering be worn by a minor without the express consent of their parent or guardian.

2022 Governor's Budget Hits & Misses

Each year, Arizona’s legislative session begins with the Governor’s State of the State speech and the unveiling of his or her annual priorities and proposed budget. This session presents Governor Ducey a rare opportunity in his final year in office to provide much-needed help to children and families in Arizona. Despite the lingering pandemic, Arizona’s revenues have reached historic highs in large part due to the multiple federal economic rescue packages and temporary unemployment insurance expansion. Arizona currently has $1 billion in ongoing and $2.1 billion in one-time revenues. This is in addition to billions of dollars in unspent federal COVID relief dollars.

Also at the beginning of each year, Children’s Action Alliance publishes its list of legislative priorities. It is our hope each year that the Governor's priorities align with ours. This year, while we did see a few bright spots that address longstanding needs, that largely did not happen. Take a look at a comparison of where the Governors priorities and ours find common ground, and where opportunities missed the mark or weren’t addressed.

On mobile? View our printable PDF.

Early Childhood

Secure state general fund investment in child care assistance  

Not addressed in the Governor’s budget or State of the State.

Increase Arizona Early Intervention Program provider rates  

Nearly 11,000 children under the age of 3 who have disabilities or developmental delays receive therapies and other support from the Arizona Early Intervention Program.  Current rates paid to providers are significantly below comparable rates paid by the program that provides services to children over age 3. The Governor’s budget proposal adds $18.6 million per year starting in fiscal year 2024 to bring the rates in line with rates paid by other programs.  A temporary rate increase will be funded in fiscal year 2023 using federal dollars.

Secure state investment in Healthy Families home visitation program  

The Governor’s budget provides $10 million, of which $7.5 million is new funding and $2.5 million replaces funds that will no longer be available. Healthy Families currently serves 4,000 families. The Governor’s budget would add an additional 1,500 families. The Governor’s budget also includes a total $15 million for fiscal years 24 and 25 which would increase the program’s ability to serve 8,000 families.

Fight any use of state funds appropriated for online early education  

Not addressed in the Governor’s budget or State of the State.


Prevent a $1.2 billion cut to public schools by authorizing an annual exemption to the K-12 expenditure cap for this school year by March 1 

If the legislature does not override the education spending limit by March 1, 2022, Arizona’s district schools will be required to cut their current year budgets by $1.2 billion.  This issue is not addressed in the Governor’s budget or State of the State.

Refer a measure to the ballot to update or eliminate the outdated K-12 expenditure authority.  

Not addressed in the Governor’s budget or State of the State.

Expand access to affordable higher education and prevent increases in student debt 

The Governor’s budget proposal increases the Promise Grant funding by $12.5 million for a total $20 million.  These additional dollars will serve an additional 3,300 students.  The Promise Grant program covers the balance of tuition that remains for students who are fully eligible for Pell grants.  

The Governor’s budget, however, continues to suspend $10 million of the statutorily required deposit into the Student Financial Aid Trust Fund. This issue is not addressed preventing tuition increases.

Reduces inequities in school funding  

The Governor’s proposal increases results-based funding for excelling schools by $60.8 million for a total $129 million.  The Governor’s proposal also includes moving this funding into the Basic State Aid appropriation where it will lose its separate identity.  Schools continue to receive results-based funding as long as they meet the criteria.  For struggling schools the Governor’s proposal includes $58 million to create the Operation Excellence program which provides $150 per student for three years.  

Family Health

Extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months (currently 60 days) 

Approximately 15,000 to 18,000 pregnant adults could benefit from extended AHCCCS coverage. This issue is not addressed in the Governor’s budget or State of the State. 

Comprehensive adult dental coverage through Medicaid

Currently only a maximum of $1,000 annually of emergency services are available for most adult populations.  This issue is not addressed in the Governor’ budget or the State of the State.

Streamline Young Adult Transitional Insurance (YATI) re-enrollment for former foster youth 

Young adults who “age out” of foster care at age 18 are automatically eligible for enrollment in AHCCCS, the state’s Medicaid program.  If they do not respond to redetermination notices or requests for additional information, often because AHCCCS does not have an accurate address, they are disenrolled.  More than 5,200 young adults are currently enrolled through YATI.  This issue is not addressed in the Governor’s budget or State of the State.

Children's Health

Waive the Medicaid five-year residency requirement for otherwise eligible pregnant people and kids who are lawfully present immigrants 

Between 7,000 and 11,000 Arizona children are ineligibility for the state’s health insurance program because they have not been in the US for at least five years.  This issue is not addressed in the Governor’s budget or State of the State. Adopting the Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act (ICHIA) option would allow the state to provide high-quality health coverage to these children and to receive a higher federal reimbursement for their care. 

Provide 12-month continuous enrollment for children participating in AHCCCS or KidsCare 

More than 850,000 Arizona children are enrolled in Arizona’s Medicaid or CHIP programs. Though children who qualify are eligible for 12 months, families who experience income volatility may lose coverage due to a temporary or one-time increase. This has a negative impact on children’s health outcomes and presents an administrative burden to both AHCCCS and the families who lose coverage. This issue is not addressed in the Governor’s budget or State of the State.

Eliminate three-month wait period for KidsCare enrollment  

Arizona’s KidsCare program requires a child cannot be covered by any health insurance for three months prior to enrollment.  This presents a barrier to enrollment.  Even short lapses in health insurance coverage have a negative impact on children’s health outcomes.  This issue is not addressed in the Governor’s budget or State of the State.

Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice

Increase kinship foster care stipend

The Governor’s proposal quadruples the unlicensed rate from $75 to $300 per month and also increases the daily allowance that pays for clothing, school supplies, etc. This increase adds $19.8 million for a total $24.8 million for kinship placements. 

Reduced barriers to licensure for foster care and kinship care providers

Licensed foster care providers receive more than $600 a month compared to the current $75 for unlicensed kinship providers.  The Governor’s budget proposes removing barriers to licensure for kinship caregivers while maintaining home life and safety standards.

Increase the independent living subsidy provided for youth in extended foster care  

Currently, 651 former foster youth between ages 18 and 21 receive the independent living subsidy.  Currently the maximum subsidy is $715 and is reduced by $50 every six months. Neither the Governor’s budget nor the State of the State address this issue.

Reduce or eliminate juvenile court fines and fees  

This issue is not addressed in the Governor’s budget or State of the State.

Governor Proposes Pathway to Parity for Foster Children Placed with Kin

In his State of the State address, Governor Ducey unveiled a proposal to significantly increase the supports provided to foster children placed with kin and to put them on a pathway to receiving the same level of financial support provided to children placed with non-relatives.

Kinship foster care is a best practice, mitigating the trauma of parental separation and leading to better outcomes for children. Arizona utilizes kinship foster care at a much greater rate than the national average of 32%. As of June 2021, 52% of all children in DCS’s custody were placed with a relative. However, the state has not provided these children with adequate financial supports. A foster child who is placed with an unlicensed relative is provided with a monthly stipend of just $75 a month. If that same foster child were placed with a non-relative foster parent, they would receive, on average, $641 a month.

There are two key components to achieving full parity for children in kinship foster care:

  1. Increasing state funding to a level that will equal the state’s share of costs once Arizona is able to draw down federal funding for more foster children placed with relatives, and
  2. Increasing the number of kinship caregivers who become licensed as foster parents, a prerequisite for leveraging federal funding.

The Governor’s proposal addresses both components simultaneously. The Executive Budget and HB 2274 (Weninger) seek an appropriation of $24.4M to provide foster children placed with kin with a monthly stipend of $300 a month. This 300% increase will immediately help kinship foster caregivers better meet the needs of the children in their care and brings the state investment up to the level needed to leverage federal funding. At the same time, DCS is putting a number of policy and practice changes in place to remove barriers to kinship licensure and expedite the process, including seeking a change to statute (HB 2084 Osborne: Udall) that will streamline background checks for kinship caregivers who have already met required safety standards. By taking these two leaps forward, foster children placed with kin will have the supports they need in the placements where they can best thrive.

Please support these CAA priority bills by joining us and Arizona Grandparent Ambassadors and Kinship Caregivers for a week of (virtual) action, beginning February 14th.

New Year, New Board Officers, New Priorities

We are excited to announce CAA’s new Board Chair, Ayensa Millan, and Vice-Chair, Wendy Valenzuela. Ayensa was Vice-Chair for CAA and is the founder and managing attorney at CIMA Law Group, PC where she handles criminal and immigration matters. Her commitment and dedication stem from her own personal experiences of knowing the struggles and needs of the immigrant community. Wendy has served on the board since 2015 and is the government affairs representative for state and local affairs at Arizona Public Service. We appreciate their leadership and look forward to working with all our board to accomplish our goals to improve the well-being of children and families in the state.

Our vision to create an Arizona where all children thrive starts with our legislative priorities. This year, one of the most critical issues is the school spending limits mandated by the state constitution. Public schools face $1.1 billion in budget cuts THIS SCHOOL YEAR if the Legislature does not pass a resolution to override the state constitution’s K-12 spending limitations by March 1 and send a referral to the November 22 ballot to permanently address the limit.

You will hear more about our priorities in the coming days as the 55th Arizona State Legislature will convene on Monday, January 10 with Governor Ducey set to deliver his 7th State of the State address before a joint House and Senate legislative floor session. We will keep you up to date on the issues we take a position on with our bill tracking system located on our website and through our weekly policy e-news – just like this one.

Thank you in advance for your support to lift Arizona children and families voices during this critical time.

Learn more about CAA Legislative Priorities

Arizona’s legislators missed a unique opportunity this legislative session

Arizona’s legislators had a unique opportunity this legislative session. The pandemic did not result in state revenues falling to the $1 billion deficit that was expected. Instead, analysts projected there was more than $1 billion in ongoing, unobligated revenues plus nearly $3 billion in one-time cash. These funds could have been used to invest in Arizona’s future. From public schools to health care to state highways, many opportunities exist to make improvements that would have long-lasting impacts on our state. Instead, the legislature squandered this opportunity and passed record-breaking tax cuts that reduce revenue so much the tax cuts cannot be fully phased in until after fiscal year 2024.

Below is information about changes to General Fund appropriations for programs that benefit Arizona’s families. Included are some of the missed opportunities - what else could have been done for everyday Arizonans rather than the few that will receive significant tax increases. We also include information about the Department of Corrections’ budget not only because it has become the third largest state agency as far as General Fund dollars are concerned, but also because many Arizona families are impacted when a family member is incarcerated.

Note: This legislative session included a number of supplemental increases for fiscal year 2021. Because the budget wasn’t signed until June 30, it’s unlikely much, if any, of these additional funds will be spent in fiscal year 2021. However, agencies will be able to spend these funds in fiscal year 2022.

Debt Payoff - The budget pays off ahead of schedule $977 million in building project debt and $1 billion in pension payoffs for the Departments of Public Safety and Corrections.

Increased Federal Match Rate – Congress increased the federal match rate for Medicaid and related programs as part of the fiscal relief provided to states. This freed up $134 million in fiscal year 2021 and $267 million in fiscal year 2022. The budget assumes these increased rates will not continue into fiscal year 2023.

Salary Increases – The new budget includes more than $66 million for employee salary increases in six state agencies. In the Department of Public Safety, all employees will receive an increase; in the remainder, increases are restricted to certain classifications or positions. No funding is allocated for the more than 10,000 employees in other state agencies. The last general salary adjustment for all state employees occurred in fiscal year 2013, but this increase did not offset the pay cuts enacted in fiscal year 2011.