Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sorry kids, there's no room in the budget to protect you

Sorry kids, there's no room in the budget to protect you



Photo provided by Cronkite News
Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson

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It could be said that Angel Manuel Rodriguez was one tough little kid. In his more
The news that the Arizona Department of Child Safety plans to stop assigning lower-priority cases of child abuse for investigation sent chills down my spine.
We have seen the damage created by policies like this. It was not long ago that the deaths of children prompted an investigation into the now-defunct Child Protective Services.
In November 2013, that investigation led to the shocking revelation that thousands of reports of child abuse and neglect had gone uninvestigated. The reports came in, but because the agency was understaffed, thousands of reports were labeled NI (Not-Investigated) and forgotten.
Last year, the Legislature reformed Arizona's child-safety system, shutting down CPS and forming a new Department of Child Safety with a new director and a plan to change the system so all children were protected.
Now, less than a year later, the new agency returns to the old policies, which endangered children. Although the label is slightly different, calling a case "unassigned" instead of "not-investigated" has the same potentially deadly result. Likewise, changing the name of the agency is meaningless if the agency reverts to the same dangerous practices.
Arizona has a dismal child-welfare track record. We have a backlog of more than 15,000 reports of child abuse and neglect. About 17,000 children are already in foster care, many of them living in group homes.
This year, Gov. Doug Ducey and the Republican-controlled Legislature took $11 million from the Department of Child Safety that was dedicated to dealing with the backlog. They also cut $9 million from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides support for our state's most poverty-stricken families.
The Republican leadership made other choices that a report from Children's Action Alliance says will "leave more children in danger and will drive up neglect." The new budget cuts $2 million from the Department of Economic Security, $3 million from youth treatment funds and $4 million from child care assistance for working families.
The budget did, however, include funding for a new private prison and more than $3 billion in corporate and special interest tax giveaways.
If you, too, are outraged by how our state government is treating our children, I challenge you to do more than just feel bad. Empathy is not enough. We must be actively compassionate.
You can contact your elected officials and demand that state law be followed. Demand that all reports of child abuse and neglect be assigned and investigated. Demand the restoration of preventative services to help Arizona's struggling families.
Above all, you can demand accountability from those making the decisions that will have long-term, devastating consequences.
Voting is an act of compassion. It is one of the most powerful steps anyone can take to help protect the future of our state and the well-being of our children. I implore you to shocompassion at the ballot box.
Rep. Victoria Steele is a Democrat from Tucson.



http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/2015/04/15/point-creating-new-child-safety-agency/25845985/