Zero Hour for Children in State Budget Battle
PHOENIX – Battle lines have formed at the Arizona Legislature over funding for children's programs – specifically for child welfare and safety.
Advocates for children and families say the Senate's budget proposal is unacceptably low for caseworker staffing and services, and for child abuse prevention.
Last year, it was revealed that 6,500 cases of child abuse had gone uninvestigated, but Dana Wolfe Naimark, president of Children's Action Alliance, calls the current situation even worse.
"There's a backlog today – today – of more than 11,000 CPS cases that have not been touched for two months or more,” she stresses. “That backlog continues to grow."
Democrats in the House and some Republicans want additional funding for child welfare services, including additional caseworkers.
Ashley Kelly, a former Child Protective Services caseworker, says the entire child welfare system is overburdened, with not enough resources.
She recalls children having to sleep in CPS offices.
"I've bathed children in the sinks of the offices in cold water and seen them cry, and tried to warm them under the hand dryers,” she relates. “And these are the realities of the job. "
Some $80 million has been cut from state subsidies for child care over the past few years.
As a result, Darlene Newsom, director of UMOM New Day Centers, says too many Arizona families must choose between paying the rent and paying for food.
"And there is no money for child care,” she points out. “Many of them are forced to leave their employment and the cycle continues.
“And to me, it's a no-brainer – don't we want our families to be able to support themselves?"
Naimark says at least $10 million must be added to the budget for child care assistance.
She says more funding is also needed for emergency placement of children removed from homes and for additional staffing, including abuse and neglect investigators.
Naimark is at 602-266-0707, ext. 214. Newsome is at 602-275-7852.