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Advocates: Governor’s Budget the Minimum for Child Safety

IMAGE: Children's Action Alliance President Dana Naimark speaks at a Tuesday news conference at the State Capitol. CREDIT: Children's Action Alliance.
May 1. 2013
IMAGE: Children's Action Alliance President Dana Naimark speaks at a Tuesday news conference at the State Capitol. CREDIT: Children's Action Alliance.

PHOENIX - Arizona children's advocates went to the state Capitol on Tuesday, urging lawmakers to fully fund Gov. Jan Brewer's $77 million budget request for Child Protective Services.

The money would pay for additional CPS staff and child care for abused and neglected children, among other things. Already, Children's Action Alliance President Dana Naimark said, nearly half the cases assigned for investigation by CPS in the past nine months remain open. Without this funding, she predicted, it'll just get worse.

"More children will sleep in CPS offices rather than with loving families," she said. "More children will wait too long for foster care. More investigations will remain open for months without a safe resolution, and 4,000 children will be kicked out of child-care assistance."

The CPS staff responsible for the safety of children in foster care has caseloads of 36 children, Naimark said, more than double the recommended number.

Alyssa Brooks-Dowty, who has been a foster parent for two years, said a friend of hers who took in two foster children in January had no contact at all from CPS for more than three months. In her words, they were "dumped on the doorstep with no follow-up."

"They have been removed from their homes due to no fault of their own, after experiencing generally horrific neglect and abuse," she said. "There is nothing we can do about the trauma they have already experienced, but we can and must stop adding trauma to their lives through a broken system."

Her voice shaking with emotion, Amber Zenzak, a working single mom with three young children, said that if she loses state-subsidized child care she would be unable to keep her job and provide for her kids.

"That's not just a family. That's three young children," she said. "That's a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old - and they would have nowhere to go. They'd have no food to eat, no stable home to be in, and that's a situation that no child should have to go through."

Brewer's budget request also includes substance-abuse treatment for parents, legal costs for children to move into permanent families, and foster care and adoptive care for more children.

Negotiations between the governor and lawmakers continue.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ