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AZ Task Force Gets Final Input on Child-Welfare Reform

December 7, 2011

PHOENIX - A state task force holds its third public meeting today to hear testimony and public comments on how the state's child-welfare system can be improved.

More than a dozen Arizona children have died from abuse this year.

Caseworkers with Child Protective Services (CPS) are working very hard and are very motivated to protect children, says Dana Naimark, president of the Children's Action Alliance. However, she says, their effectiveness suffers from a lack of support.

"They have caseloads that are far too large. With budget cuts, they've lost some technology support, some salary stipends that helped attract and retain people with specialized skill sets. Supervisor turnover is extremely high."

Naimark believes there has to be better communication between CPS and the community, something she says can be facilitated by creation of a permanent oversight panel for the state agency.

"We often have task forces and special commissions when there's a perceived crisis or there are some high-profile cases. But really, we need an ongoing partnership and community leadership to be monitoring progress and helping to set and move toward goals."

While leadership is important, Naimark says, the state also needs to properly fund the child-welfare system.

"It's just like any endeavor that we care a lot about. To make the tools work well, they need both leadership and commitment as well as resources. So, I certainly believe we need an investment of resources."

The goal for everyone involved, Naimark says, should be for children to be in safe, permanent homes.

The task force is looking at ways to prevent children from being returned to abusive families. Its meeting is to begin at 9 a.m. in the second-floor conference room of the State Capitol Executive Tower.

Final recommendations to Gov. Jan Brewer are due by the end of the month.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ