9/12/2012 10:12:00 AM Editorial CPS crisis puts kids in immediate danger
Courtesy the Daily Courier
We declare states of emergency when natural disasters or "acts of God" put people in peril and destroy lives.
Why not declare a state of emergency for the thousands of Arizona children who are at risk because the state agency charged with their safety and welfare is in deep trouble?
Reports surfaced this past Friday that Arizona's Child Protective Services (CPS) is burdened with a caseload that continues to skyrocket, despite efforts of a task force Gov. Jan Brewer appointed to find solutions to the ever-increasing problem and changes the Department of Economic Security instituted within CPS, which it oversees.
The task force issued a lengthy report that recommended streamlining procedures to save time caseworkers spend on their paperwork, without sacrificing the checks and balances necessary to protect children who might be in jeopardy. The task force also recommended a special team of investigators who would be called into help if criminal activity in a child abuse or neglect case was suspected.
As a result of this study, the Legislature passed two bills intended to bolster CPS. One bill provided for a new office of child welfare investigators and the other improved communication between CPS and law enforcement.
That was earlier this summer, and here we are again arguing for Arizona's most vulnerable population - children whose parents cannot or do not take care of them properly and even hurt them or stand by when someone else - a mother's boyfriend, for example - abuses or even kills them.
The most recent report shows that CPS is 200 workers short of its approved staffing levels and is still 500 short of meeting state and national standards. This report also reveals that nearly one in three of the front-line workers has quit this year
and that the number of children in foster care continues to climb, reaching a record of 13,497 in July, a 22 percent increase over July 2011.
In light of this, DES officials said they hope new initiatives will help attract and keep qualified caseworkers and lighten caseloads.
How realistic is this expectation when CPS takes in 100 new cases each day? Yes, DES does have 970 budgeted positions for its CPS division, but it seems unreasonable for even this number to handle such a magnitude of new calls each day.
We know the root of the problem is neglectful and abusive people, who unfortunately, became parents when they shouldn't have the privilege. But there's no stopping this, and helpless children are left on our doorsteps when none of what has happened to them is their fault.
This horrific situation is a state of emergency.
Gov. Jan Brewer, declare it such and then call a special session of the Legislature.
No money, you say? Find it, somehow. Too many children are suffering.