During the Christmas season, I am reminded that family is one of God’s greatest gifts. That is why, as representatives of the people of Arizona, we must renew our commitment to our Arizona families, and to the precious gifts that are their children. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers must work together, and be vigilantly mindful to always live up to our Bipartisan Hippocratic Oaths, to “Do no harm to our citizens.”
Far too often, I have received reports of children being quickly removed from their families by the Arizona Department of Child Services (DCS), and placed into the care of its employees. Although this may be well-intended, sometimes DCS employees remove children from their homes only to be forced to have them sleep in government offices until a foster family or a group home becomes available.
While the State is once again taking steps to improve the DCS system, the Auditor General’s report suggests that a lack of training and assistance has led to the arbitrary removal of children by the State. The Auditor General found:
Although “caseworkers and supervisors should come to these meetings with open minds, some indicated that they come with their decision already made regarding the child – removal decision and may not adequately engage with families during the meeting.”
The Auditor General concluded “Department needs to modify or replace its child safety and risk assessment tool, provide adequate training for caseworkers and supervisors, and improve safety planning.”
The 7+ year sluggish economic recovery has placed incredible stress upon families, especially those in the lower economic rungs. This daily economic stress can lead to neglect, that can be exacerbated by hasty interventions by our government agencies. We must ensure that there are adequate remedies, tools and safeguards available for struggling families, in order to keep children within their extended family units, such as with grandparents. It is self-evident that children at risk can not be left in dangerous situations, however the state must be committed to the restoration and preservation of these families.
The tribes are currently working to retain federal protections in order to keep children removed from their families within the tribal units. They argue the importance that culture plays in the development of Native American children. I agree, individual family culture and heritage is very important in developing the rich, unique qualities found within each of us. As much as possible, we must do all that we can to keep family units intact.
The very best Christmas gift that Arizona can bestow is to continue to improve our economy, while helping Arizona families, and especially their children, who are in fact the very future of our state. My family and I wish you and yours a rich, blessed, and very Merry Christmas, Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe.