Republican leaders remain silent on calls to improve CPS
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – More than a month has passed since Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15), asked Speaker of the House Andy Tobin, R-Paulden (District 1), and Senate President Steve Pierce, R-Prescott (District 1), to convene the Child Protective Services Oversight Committee and fulfill a legal obligation to find solutions for the challenges the agency is facing. The request has gone unanswered.
This week, Hobbs renewed the call to Tobin and Pierce, and she also sent the request to Gov. Jan Brewer. Hobbs’ second attempt to encourage the creation of the committee follows a Department of Economic Security budget request in early October that highlighted a need to hire 200 more CPS employees to maintain current workloads in the upcoming year. This number is in addition to the 200 CPS employees hired earlier this year.
“CPS will need to hire more employees because of the growing number of abuse and neglect cases being reported and the shocking increase in the number of children in foster care,” Hobbs said. “The CPS system is being pushed to the brink.”
DES reports indicated that there were more than 14,000 Arizona children in foster care in August 2012. An Arizona Children’s Action Alliance analysis of DES data indicates that reports of child abuse and neglect have increased 24 percent since October 2009. As of September 2012, more than a third of the abuse and neglect investigations started between July 2011 and May 2012 were still open. An article published in The Arizona Republic on Oct. 21 reported that more children have died from child abuse in 2012 than in 2010 or 2011. Also, there are 37 percent more Arizona children in foster care since October 2009, while the number of foster homes is decreasing at an alarming rate.
“CPS needs support, and we have a moral and a legal obligation to find ways to help this agency provide services to children,” Hobbs said. “The CPS Oversight Committee was established so that we would have a framework for working together to ensure that CPS is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. This should be a priority.”
The CPS Oversight Committee, created by HB 2249, is mandated to identify areas of improvement for the agency and to make recommendations by Nov. 15, 2012. To date, the committee, which is supposed to include several state legislators, a representative from DES, a member of a law enforcement agency, a CPS caseworker, a foster parent, and a guardian, has not been created.
“CPS plays a vital role in keeping Arizona kids safe. Speaker Tobin, President Pierce and Gov. Brewer should take the lead in forming this committee,” Hobbs said. “The deadline for the committee’s report is less than a month away, and the Republican leadership has been silent on this issue. This is about the safety of Arizona children. It can’t wait any longer; the stakes are too high and the Republicans have dropped the ball on this.”
To see the Arizona Children’s Action Alliance analysis of DES data, go to http://www.azchildren.org/display.asp?pageId=75&parentId=23.