Advocate: Lots of Hard Work Ahead at Former CPS
PHOENIX - Although Gov. Jan Brewer has ordered replacement of Child Protective Services with a new, cabinet-level state agency, a leading children's advocate says the tough work is just beginning.
Children's Action Alliance president Dana Wolfe Naimark said CPS is a complex, multi-layered system of overlapping responsibilities.
"Reports of abuse and neglect, investigations, community response and community services, foster care, adoptions, reunification with families," she said. "So, there are actually many components and, often, the public only thinks of the investigations."
Naimark said CPS also interacts with other parts of state government, such as behavioral health and juvenile justice. She said she hopes the reform effort will start by assembling a team of national and Arizona-based experts on child welfare, abuse and neglect to oversee the complicated process.
Naimark said she feels strongly that CPS reform needs to include increased prevention and family support services in the community, starting with child-care assistance.
"Many working families are not able to afford reliable, quality child care," she said, "and we have cut $70 million in funding over the last four years. It's time to rebuild support for child care, and that will help reduce neglect of children."
Naimark said she thinks Brewer has sent an important signal about making major changes at CPS and believes the necessary funding will follow.
"I think Gov. Brewer and legislators recognize that we cannot continue the way we have been with Child Protective Services," she said, "that we can't continue to have a mismatch between the job we give them and the infrastructure they have to do the job."
More money also is needed for increased caseworker staffing levels, professional mentoring for parents, and updating the CPS computerized case-tracking system, Naimark said. Lawmakers have cut the state's tax base by $700 million a year since the recession began, she said, adding that future tax cut discussions need to connect with budget needs such as education and CPS.