During Governor Jan Brewer’s tenure, Child Protective Services has failed the children of Arizona time and time again. As a result of state representatives of both parties bringing pressure to bear on the agency, on Wednesday it announced some progress in the Department of Economic Security released its latest Semi-Annual Child Welfare Report.
The report highlights some improvements made with its Child Protective Services Division regarding staff recruitment and retention, Child Abuse Hotline management and foster home recruitment efforts.
The report finds there are 3,748 licensed foster homes. This reflects that for the first time in three years, the number of new licensed foster homes has outpaced the number of closing foster homes. The agency licensed 999 new foster homes in the six month period between April 1, 2012 and September 30, 2012, compared to the closing of 747existing foster homes. Twenty-six percent of existing homes closed due to the adoption of the child(ren) placed in the home.
The announcement was silent on the quality of the new homes except to say that they have actively engaged with faith and community-based organizations to help meet the needs of a growing number of children in foster care. They admit that there remains a need for new foster homes.
The number of children in out of home care rose to 14,111 from 11,535 for the same period last year. This increase is also reflected in the increase in the number of reports to the Child Abuse Hotline.
The Department of Economic Security noted some improvements to the Child Abuse Hotline. The report shows calls to the Hotline increased by more than 2,900 or approximately 3 percent during the reporting period. However, hotline staff was able to answer 11 percent more calls in 2012 as compared to 2011.
DES says that it has created a new centralized and streamlined hiring process. CPS hired and trained 459 new caseworkers in 2012. The agency also partnered with Arizona State University (ASU) to evaluate and update its training opportunities for new and ongoing staff and supervisors.
“We know that one of the most important factors in retaining good caseworkers is having good supervisors,” said Director Clarence Carter. “We have revamped the way we educate and train our supervisors so they can address the issues most important to the caseworkers and the agency.”
“Our work to improve the system is far from done,” adds Carter. “There is a sense of urgency in our agency to focus our efforts on breaking the bottlenecks in the system and replacing them with new, more effective and efficient ways of doing business, and most importantly, to ensure child safety.”
The full Semi-Annual Child Welfare Report is available on the DES website.