ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Fifty one years ago, an Arizona legislative committee produced an 86-page report on the Arizona Department of Public Welfare, harshly criticizing legislators. The report noted the disjointed service delivery, a chronic lack of funding. and employee mutinies that threatened the well-being of the children and families under state care.
Chaos was engulfing the state’s child-welfare system, as population increases and declining family values were pushing caseworkers to the breaking point. Even with substantial budget increases, it would be difficult to get ahead of the problems.
“Like Alice in Wonderland, we will have to run twice as fast just to stay in the same place,” the committee warned.
That report was issued in 1962, and little has changed since.
In January of 1995, The Arizona Republic published the results of its three-month-long investigation into the State’s child welfare system, reporting that: “Arizona’s child-welfare system, now under the umbrella of the mammoth Arizona Department of Economic Security, is still in chaos.”
As staff writers Carol Sowers, Norm Parish and Richard Robertson summarized the key findings of their investigation:
- Forty-six percent of Arizona’s foster children – almost the maximum allowed by law – remain in “temporary” homes for two years or more, according to a fact sheet prepared by state
child-welfare officials. They idle in the system until they are too old to be adopted. The result is increased costs for taxpayers and mounting caseloads for the state’s Child Protective Services agency and the courts.
- The state suffered a net loss of 50 foster families a month from September to March, forcing cast-off children to be placed in day-care centers or held longer than necessary in hospitals.
- On the front lines of the child-welfare system, caseworkers bail out at an alarming rate. In Maricopa County, which has the most demanding child-welfare problems, nearly one-fourth of the caseworkers left in 1993, 2 1/2 times the average for the entire DES.
- The seasoned managers, caseworkers, and volunteers who do stay are routinely forced to subvert the bureaucracy in order to serve their clients. Faced with shortages of foster homes, caseworkers have been forced to place some children in day-care systems. But because state law prevents leaving foster children in day care for more than 24 hours at a time, caseworkers must pick them up and drive them around for an hour before bringing them back.
- The state Department of Economic Security, the parent agency of the CPS, has had 16 director changes in 22 years, causing a crisis of consistency in leadership.
- Even conservative lawmakers agree that the DES has been dangerously underfunded, yet legislative commitment to children has been so marginal that the committee that oversees child welfare failed to meet for nearly two years.
- The DES has an outdated and inefficient record-keeping system. Officials don’t know how many caseworkers they need to handle the increasing number of abused and neglected children coming into the system, and it recently took a researcher an entire week to find out how much money is being spent on children.
- The DES has been so financially mismanaged that it went 20 years before the state auditor general could certify that the agency is keeping track of the $2.5 billion in funds and benefits it manages. The agency’s financial picture is so muddy that it didn’t even know it until several months ago that it had $14 million to use to help people find jobs.
John Hagedorn, who tried valiantly to reform Milwaukee’s troubled child welfare system, describes the transformation of a once-helping institution into one that in later years saw most federal social service dollars “going to create an expensive, punitively-inclined child protection apparatus which was to take over Departments of Social Services.” Social service bureaucracies grew and sustained themselves by adapting to the ideology of child protection “which in effect meant investigating child abuse and placing kids out of their homes,” Hagedorn explains.
Arizona’s child welfare bureaucracy provides a textbook perfect illustration of this phenomenon.
According to Marsha Porter, a former CPS director, part of the problem is that children and families too often don’t get help until it is too late, the Arizona Republic explained.
“There is only one child-welfare agency in the state, and its main function is investigation. The problem is that the only way for kids and parents to get services then is for someone to be labeled a victim and someone a perpetrator,” said Porter.
The retention of foster parents has always been an issue in child welfare, due in no small measure to those foster parents who would dare to advocate for the children in their care being pushed out of the system.
“Good foster parents are outspoken about incompetence and negligence, so they get threatened by the licensing agencies. DES likes to put kids in places that aren’t problems,” Francis Beseden, an attorney and legal guardian, told the Arizona Republic news team.
The bureaucratization and debureaucratization of child welfare service agencies are often pointed to as part of the magic key to reform. Agencies have been sub-divided, decompartmentalized, recompartmentalized, and pulled back together once and again “under one umbrella” in a never-ending effort to find the proper bureaucratic balance.1
Arizona provides no acception to the rule, its current Department of Economic Security having been assembled in 1972 by combining several departments in order to eliminate what the industry commonly describes as the “fragmentation of service delivery.”2
In 1995, when these problems were investigated and identified by Arizona’s press, the child welfare bureaucracy had already grown to tremendous proportions, as the journalists explained:
If the DES were a corporation, its 8,800 employees would make it the third-largest in the state – smaller than Motorola and Allied-Signal but larger than Honeywell, Arizona Public Service and America West Airlines.
On October 7, 2011, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed Executive Order 2011-06 establishing the Arizona Child Safety Task Force.
“Child Protective Services caseworkers and staff perform critically important and exceptionally difficult work, and their margin for error is thin,” said Governor Brewer in a press release. “So I commend DES Director Clarence Carter for identifying immediate reforms that can help the agency perform more efficiently and effectively.”
In a subsequent release issued on November 1, 2011, the Governor announced the members of the Task Force, which included a diverse array of professionals with claimed expertise in the field of child welfare. The recommendations of her Task Force were to be in addition to a series of immediate reforms the Arizona Department of Economic Security intended to “improve its operations, transparency and accountability when it comes to the safety and welfare of children under the state’s oversight.”3
The Governor took the unusual course of appointing Clarence Carter – head of the Department of Economic Security – and Gregory McKay, an outspoken Phoenix police detective who had expressed criticism of the Department’s operations, as co-chairs on the Task Force.
NOVEMBER 12, 2013
The catalyst for Gov. Brewer’s push to investigate all reports called in to the Arizona CPS hotline, regardless of whether or not they necessarily merit investigation, is said to be a confidential memo sent to her by Gregory McKay, the Phoenix police detective overseeing criminal investigations at CPS, dated November 12, 2013. The memo from McKay concerns his discovery of thousands of uninvestigated child abuse and neglect reports, saying the issue is “clearly one of failed child safety and protection multiplied by 5,000.”
Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter said the chief of the Office of Child Welfare Investigations brought the issue to his attention on Nov. 12, the same date as that on the memo to the Governor.
Carter said 6,000 cases were “misclassified” as not requiring investigations beginning in 2009. The number of cases escalated as the caseloads increased, and even as a new hotline process was being put into place. “What is clear to me here is that determination was made in many instances where it never should have been made,” Carter said.
The end result of the univestigated cases bears repeating.
“I don’t know of any fatalities,” said Gregory McKay, according to an AP report of November 21, on the uninvestigated cases.
“No deaths have been connected to the lapses,” the AP reported in a subsequent article published on November 25.
On December 3, in its coverage of the events the Payson Roundup similarly reported that “the review has so far uncovered no deaths.”
Depending on which news report one may read, the number of univestigated cases was, at a minimum, 6,000, with other reports putting the figure at 6,100 to as many as 6,500. The actual number isn’t as important as this one: Among the entire cohort of uninvestigated cases, there was not one child fatality to be found.
A CLOSER LOOK
According to a report released in August of 2013, the Department of Economic Security received 32,300 calls over the course of the six-month period. Of the total calls received, 10,139 (31.4 percent) did not meet the statutory criteria for a CPS report. The report continues on the explain that:
Calls that did not meet the criteria for a CPS report included: requests for information or referrals for services; questions about current cases; and allegations of abuse or neglect where the alleged perpetrator was not the child’s parent, guardian or custodian.
The report continues on to note that: “Every call that does not meet the criteria for a CPS report is reviewed within 48 hours by quality assurance staff to ensure the accuracy of that decision.”
According to a CBS 5 News report, Carter said investigators had gone through nearly 3,000 cases and found 1,700 cases that needed further investigation. Of those, they found only 10 that needed immediate attention.
That is to say that only 10 out of 3,000 reports appeared to require immediate attention. That does not necessarily mean that children were genuinely endangered, as the reported severity of a report may – at least in some instances – be attributed to the ingenuity of someone deliberately calling in a false or malicious report.
In February of 1998, I interviewed a whistleblowing former caseworker from Arizona who told me that it was painfully obvious to her at at least one third of the cases that appeared on her desk for investigation were deliberately false, and that they should never have been passed on for investigation. This was particularly true of the anonymous call-ins.4
What she said echoed the writing of Keith Richards, an eight-year veteran of Long Island’s child protective services system and author of Tender Mercies: “People try to manipulate the CPS system all the time. You know, schools and hospitals calling to protect their behinds when a kid has a hangnail, neighbors harassing neighbors, estranged spouses trying to zap it to their ex.”
Richards sin’t the only former CPS caseworker to write book. Former New York City caseworker and Turning Stones author Marc Parent explains:
Once in a while, cases generated by anonymous callers proved to be true, but not usually. Reported crack houses with children locked in small crates covered in bruises and urine often turned out to be buildings with doormen and well-cared-for children tucked tightly in bed. The toll of the false reports was exhausting. It was sickening to to visit families in the middle of the night, make parents wait outside, wake up children and strip them naked to look for bruises that were never there.
“More often than not,” he adds, “victims of false reports turned out to be people in the midst of completely unrelated feuds with a neighbor or two. Strange coincidence.”
THE NEW TEAM
On December 12, 2013, the AP reported that a “new team” dubbed “CARE” by Governor Brewer reported that over 550 reports from the past four years had now received responses, and nearly 200 children had been visited by police or social workers.
You read that right. Some of these cases were over four years old, and the police and the caseworkers were only now knocking on the doors.
But should they have been knocking at all?
On December 19, the AP reported that: “A new team assigned to review more than 6,500 child abuse and neglect reports that weren’t investigated by Arizona child welfare officials says they’ve now assigned more than 2,100 of those cases to investigators.” The so-called CARE team, as it was named by Gov. Jan Brewer, said that over 1,100 children identified in the reports had been seen, and more than 1,000 cases have had a response.”
Progress was being made. But where was it all leading? Were there children out there truly needing to be rescued? Were there any lives to be saved?
On January 3rd of this year, the Arizona Capitol Times reported that: “The team assigned to check on the safety of children associated with abuse calls that went without investigation has found no ‘significant’ cases after seeing more than 2,000 children in the first month of work.”
With one third of the cohort of uninvestigated cases now behind them, the team found no child fatalities whatsoever, and no “significant” cases.
In other words, the screeners at the hotline had it right. They had engaged in the necessary and appropriate triaging of reports. Yet it was precisely that action – the triaging of reports – that had brought the agency under fire.
A RAND study published in 1991 – long before the deluge of reports had attained its current proportions – explains that “CPS systems contend with chronic overload by establishing formal triage systems or, where acknowledgement of limited capacity is not permitted, de facto triage.”5
As the Urban Institute explains in its report The Decision to Investigate: Understanding State Child Welfare Screening Policies and Practices, many state agencies reported that “they had recently tightened the criteria by which they judge whether a referral should be investigated. While only one state — Connecticut — reported that its official state policy changed to exclude certain types of reports from investigation, many states reported unofficial changes in practice that produced the same result.”
By the late 1990s, the ever-increasing number of reports to CPS became a major issue of concern in the industry. The Spring 1998 edition of Future of Children featured an article that examined the problem in some detail, concluding:
State legislatures should allow, and local agencies should undertake, experiments with screening systems that differentiate between reports of maltreatment representing higher or lower risk to the child, and that build in evaluations tracking outcomes for both groups. Differentiation should guide the manner in which further information about the report is gathered, and help to prioritize cases for services and CPS oversight.
Writing in the September 2013 issue of Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, Keith Roberts Johnson explains that: “Triage works to adjust the classification decisions to the resources available.” Johnson further explains that:
Outside political forces are reactive and counterproductive, pushing the profession towards punitive actions towards families. Worst of all, there is no solution possible when this perspective is adopted, other than a never ending demand for more social workers, more resources for families, more training, more skills and more supervision.
Arizona’s politicians are no exception to this rule, as evinced by the harsh rhetoric surrounding the “discovery” of the uninvestigated cases at CPS. Some headlines around the time included: AZ leader looks into failures at CPS, AZ finds problems in more CPS cases, Community forum held to help fix CPS, and 5 AZ CPS staffers placed on leave.
Even worse, Channel 12 NBC News reported the 6,000 uninvestigated cases as a “horrible, horrible reality coming to light.”
The problem in Arizona is one of knee-jerk statutory construction born of an overreaction during a previous administration. Arizona statute 8-802.C.5 mandates that all reports of alleged abuse or neglect called in to the hotlines are to be investigated. As much as Arizona’s legislators may hate to hear it, their state is one in which, as the RAND study put it, “where acknowledgement of limited capacity is not permitted,” hence its agency engaged in “de facto triage.”6
How did this all come about? Emily Bregel of the Arizona Daily Star explains in a recent column that:
A similar scenario played out in 2003 after a series of child maltreatment deaths involving families already involved with CPS. Then-Gov. Janet Napolitano pushed through extra funding for CPS, as well as legislation mandating that all cases get investigated. The reforms also dismantled the state’s “differential response” program, a kind of triage system that refers low-risk families to voluntary support programs instead of a CPS investigation and dependency court.
THE REVMAX PROJECT
Brewer inherited far more than that particular legal mandate from prior administrations. An audit note by the state’s Auditor General dated December 1, 2005, and addressed to then-Governor Janet Napolitano, detailed a revenue maximization initiative that the Department of Economic Security had commenced some time earlier.
These financial considerations, while complicated, must be understood if any efforts are to be made to implement reforms of a meaningful nature. It is one thing to claim that federal dollars impact placement decisions and length of stay, but it is quite another matter to prove it.
The audit explains: “The Department is working to increase federal revenues and has engaged a consultant to implement three projects involving federal grants used to fund Child Protective Services operations. These projects are designed to replace state funds with increased federal revenues and are expected to bring in approximately $3 million in one-time revenues and $1.3 million annually in ongoing new revenues. As of October 2005, $2.1 million of these funds had been received.”
In outlining these events for the benefit of the Governor, the audit note continued on to explain:
In the fall of 2003, the State began developing an initiative that is designed to help state agencies identify and recover currently untapped sources of revenue for which they may be eligible. This initiative, known as Revenue Maximization (or RevMax), is a state-wide initiative and has a governance board that reviews and monitors the progress of agencies’ projects. As of September 2005, 23 projects are under operation or have been completed among eight state agencies, including three projects at the Department of Economic Security.
To implement this initiative, in June 2004 the State contracted with six vendors who have specialized “revenue maximization” skills and experience with other states. These contractors are paid a fixed fee or a contingency fee of up to 10 percent of new revenues earned or costs avoided over a set period of time based on a preestablished baseline. While federal matching funds may be used to pay fixed fee contracts, contingency fees cannot be paid with federal funds, but may be paid with state funds replaced by the newly generated revenues.
The audit explained that “management may solicit offers from any of the six approved contractors or may elect to work on the project internally without contractor assistance. If the project results in new revenues or cost savings, the agency’s program budget may be reduced to return some newly generated revenues to the General Fund. The agency can then use the remaining funds to update information technology, to enhance prevention and early intervention strategies, to offset agency supplemental requests or unfunded mandated costs, or to compensate personnel who were principally responsible for generating the savings. Allowable RevMax projects include: Obtaining new revenues, such as replacing state funding with federal funding for past or prospective program expenditures; Providing funding flexibility, such as expanding the allowed use of federal revenues; and Avoiding costs, such as reducing expenditures in current programs.”
The audit note details a contractual relationship the agency had established with Public Consulting Group for the express purposes of enhancing federal reimbursements for children in foster care under Title IV-E. Public Consulting Group estimated that “that the project would generate $1.2 to $2.1 million in one-time increased revenues.”
Toward this end, PCG “received data on approximately 20,000 foster care placements from April 2003 through June 2005 and identified approximately 1,000 children with a potential for recovery of Title IV-E funds. PCG then reviewed Child Protective Services records for these 1,000 children to determine if they were eligible for federal funding and to assemble the required paperwork to document the child’s eligibility.”
It is interesting to note that an agency that has historically been reluctant to provide information regarding children in its care on the basis of confidentiality concerns, has no compunction about handing over the names and complete case files – which often include detailed family income histories – of thousands of children over to a private contractor for analysis.
The audit continues on in this vein for many more pages, detailing the Department’s efforts to pull down as many federal dollars as it can for its child protection and foster care programs. This was the golden era of revenue maximization, and the state of Arizona was gearing up to fill its agencies coffers with all of that expertly generated federal revenue.
The audit details some of the earlier accomplishments, and they are particularly relevant in terms of determining what a child in care is actually “worth” to the state. These are drawn verbatim from the report:
- The Department reports that, as of July 2005, PCG had identified an additional 139 children from the review period who were eligible for $2,010,900 in Title IV-E payments. The Department has submitted this claim to the federal government and it was approved and paid in October 2005.
- The Department indicates that it submitted another claim totaling $711,439 for 99 children found to be eligible under the Title IV-E program. This claim was submitted to the federal government on September 30, 2005. The Department expects to receive notice of acceptance or denial by December 31, 2005
- Further, the Department reports that on October 31, 2005, it submitted a claim requesting $73,523 for allowable administrative costs associated with the children identified through this case file review project.
- PCG estimates that it will identify additional children who were Title IV-E eligible, and the associated claims will total at least $150,000.
That’s right – the administrative costs associated with generating the federal revenue are themselves reimbursable. And, all the contractor gets is a relatively small percentage of the gain on a fee-contingent basis. Everybody wins, save the children who want only to return to their homes.
There is another specific financial incentive to maintain a CPS case as an “open” one: “PCG indicates that CPS activities provided to children not removed from their home, such as eligibility determination, case management and planning and certain in-home services, may be eligible for Title IV-E administrative reimbursement if CPS determines that, absent effective preventive services, the children in question would be placed into foster care.” Hence, the true urgency behind the monthly family visits that never seem to end is revealed.7
FOSTER PARENT RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
Arizona has privatized the bulk of its services involving foster care home recruitment. The belief that “outsourcing” these tasks to the private sector will make for a job well done is essentially a myth, at lease inasmuch as the privatization of services in Arizona is concerned. As a report issued by the State Auditor in October 2013 explains:
The Department contracts with licensed child-placing agencies (contractors) to provide most services related to foster home recruitment. Specifically, as of June 2013, the Department had contracts with 21 contractors who provide foster home recruitment-related services within one or more areas of the State specified in their individual contracts. According to department staff, 18 contractors serve Maricopa County, 13 contractors serve Pima County, and 6 contractors serve the other counties in the State.
How are Arizona’s private contractors doing in terms of the recruitment and retention of foster homes? An August 9, 2013, article in The Republic explains:
The one bright spot heralded in the previous report in January — a net gain in family foster homes for the first time in three years — evaporated as foster parents closed their homes faster than new ones could open during the six-month period ending March 31. While 722 new families became licensed, 740 foster homes closed their doors.
Legislative solutions are at times as confounding as they are counterproductive. In responding to the growing shortage of foster homes, Governor Brewer signed Senate Bill 1108 into law on May 2, 2013, directing the Department of Economic Security to “develop a placement policy that restricts the placement of young children and infants in homes where the foster parents have not immunizaed their own children.”
The licensing requirements for prospective foster parents are only the first hurdle to be crossed. That’s the recruitment part of the equation. As an October 2013 report by the State Auditor explains:
Statute requires the Department to license individuals who provide foster care to nonrelative children. General licensure requirements include possessing the ability to care for children; passing criminal background checks; undergoing an investigation, or “home study,” and a home safety inspection; and completing a specified number of training hours. Licenses are valid for 2 years and specify the age range, gender, and maximum number of children who can be placed in a licensee’s home. The Department reported that it had 3,576 homes maintained by licensed foster parents with a total capacity of 8,579 spaces as of March 31, 2013. Of these spaces, 2,152 spaces were unavailable for placements, and 1,051 spaces were available but unused because a match between these spaces and children’s needs was not possible.
HOW MANY CASEWORKERS WAS THAT AGAIN?
The timing of the entire affair is rather curious. Prior to the revelations concerning the backlogged cases, journalist Mary K. Reinhart reported: “The head of Arizona’s child-welfare system is requesting 444 new workers and more than $115 million to keep pace with the unabated growth in the number of abused and neglected children entering foster care and to reduce caseloads, but not for money to prevent children from coming into foster care.”
Reinhart noted also that “the Department of Economic Security’s budget request for the coming fiscal year comes as the agency is training and deploying 200 new Child Protective Services case managers and support staff that lawmakers approved last session, but anticipates growth of 7 to 8 percent in the number of kids in care — now approaching 15,000 children — over the next two years.”
Reinhart continued on to explain that:
Arizona continues to be an outlier in the country, with national statistics showing the state with by far the largest percentage increase in its foster-care population. State child-welfare officials attribute the growth to an increase in reports to a statewide hotline.
In an article published on August 9, Reinhart wrote of the deepening crisis in Arizona’s foster care system. Arizona “is caring for a record number of foster children as child-welfare workers juggle an ever-growing number of abuse and neglect reports, according to a new state report.
“The biannual report shows that the state’s Child Protective Services now has 14,314 children in foster care, an increase of 40 percent since March 2010, and continues to be buried under an avalanche of reports, most of them alleging that children are being neglected.”
Reinhart noted that a separate monthly report “shows an even higher 14,608 children in care as of June 30, including 95 babies and small children living in group homes and crisis shelters. In March 2010, there were 10,207 Arizona foster children.”
According to official sources, as of March 31, 2013, the Department of Economic Security had 14,304 children in care. 5,894 – or 41% of the total – resided in conventional foster homes. 5,715, or 40% were residing with relative. 10% resided in group homes, 5% were in residential treatment centers, with the remaining 4% in other placements.
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
In an article published on December 17, 2012, Mary Reinhart wrote a particularly insightful column that read, in part:
Arizona child-welfare administrators plan to restore most services to children and parents in the coming weeks, saying an internal “misunderstanding” led them to inadvertently cut visitation and other standard programs.
New budget-tightening policies implemented over the past couple of months threatened to keep children in foster care longer and make it harder to reunite families, and they led agencies to lay off dozens of workers. The abrupt policy changes also delayed or reduced supervised visitation, parenting training, transportation and other services, in violation of court orders.
The Department initially denied the cutbacks – even those detailed in its own internal memos – however, agency head Carter came clean after a story in the Arizona Republic detailed the cutbacks. Reinhart explains:
Carter acknowledged that a “malfunction” led middle managers to go too far in reducing services, those attending the meeting said. Some agencies hadn’t received referrals for family mentors, known as parent aides, in months.
“Unfortunately, a misunderstanding within the DES resulted in staff and providers believing that adjustments below historic norms were required,” DES administrators said in a letter to service providers and a statement sent to The Republic. “That was not DES’ intent and is not accurate.”
“What I’m hoping is that it meets the needs … so we hear less from parents saying, ‘I haven’t seen my kids in several months,'” said Ron Carpio, a vice president of a private company that runs the Families FIRST program in Maricopa County. “They have a right to see their kids.”
Let us be clear about the impact of this “misunderstanding” on the part of the Department and its contractors. As an April 12, 2012, performance audit conducted by the Auditor General’s Office explains, the “Division’s in-home services program intended to stabilize, strengthen, and preserve families,”
It is precisely these programs that were being quietly phased out by the Department of Economic Security and its revenue maximization contractors in favor of increasing the more lucrative foster care placements
This is nothing new. Some years ago, I suggested to Massachusettes News reporter Edward G. Oliver that he consider contacting State Rep. Marie Parente, Chair of the Legislative Committee on Foster Care, in reference to a series he was putting together on the topic of revenue maximization by human services agencies. Parente’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Foster Care had released a series of recommendations for systemwide reform at the time, and Anderson Consulting – a revenue maximization firm – held contracts with that State. Oliver reported that:
When asked if the recommendations for reform from the Blue Ribbon Commission were acted on, Rep. Parente answered that DSS implemented those parts of the Commission “Report” that Andersen liked which increased the federal revenue. She said, “What they did was the parts that Andersen liked, you know, the money part, the federal reimbursement. But my special committee filed a minority report because I thought they focused on the wrong thing.”
Oliver reported that Rep. Parente described to Massachusetts News the important role federal dollars play in decision-making about those children at DSS:
I remember Congresswoman Schroeder. She said her greatest fear about federal funding for DSS is that every time they decided to put more money into a different facet of DSS, then DSS focused the attention on that. It is that way across the country. If they thought that children should stay with families and that was their big thing that year, all kids stayed with their families because then the state would get a lot of money. If the focus of the federal government and funds change to adoption, then everybody would get adopted.
Around the time of the interview, Anderson Consulting was knocked out of the box by rival Public Consulting Group, which is among the firms that currently holds RevMax contracts with Arizona. And so it goes, as the current cutbacks in aid to families and the federal financial incentives rewarding states for increasing adoptions clearly demonstrate.8
The results of the increasing removals coupled with the continuing exodus of foster parents from the system are as tragic as they are predictable, as Arizona Daily Star columnist Emily Bregel explained in a December article: “Children are sleeping in CPS offices as caseworkers scramble to find a foster or group home placement. Some kids are placed hours away from their families, friends, schools and all that’s familiar.”
The alleged misunderstanding between high-ranking bureaucrats and their contractors aside, Bregel explains that: “The State funding for family preservation services – in-home programs to boost parenting skills and strengthen relationships – was halved from $43 million in 2008 to $22 million in 2012.”
During a forum organized by the Children’s Action Alliance in late 2013, participants described Arizona’s system as one in which “Court systems are unfriendly time-sinks for foster parents, CPS workers and biological parents trying to regain custody,” the Capitol Times reported.
To be sure, there was the usual rhetoric about “underpaid” and “overworked” caseworkers, but there were also some more thoughtful suggestions from the group. The lack of prevention programs has contributed to a dramatic rise in neglect reports, said Dennae Pierre, executive director of Arizona Foster Care Initiatives.
Pierre went on to say that a dollar spent on prevention can save $10 in costs down the road.
“All the dollars in the world won’t help,” Pierre said. “We’re just stuck in a crisis state.”
2. The Department of Economic Security was established in July 1972 by combining the Employment Security Commission, the State Department of Public Welfare, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the State Office of Economic Opportunity, the Apprenticeship Council, and the State Office of Manpower Planning. In 1974, the State Department of Mental Retardation also was absorbed by the Department.
3. The Child Safety Task force members announced at the time included: Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney; Justice Robert Brutinel, Arizona Supreme Court; Judge Michael McVey, Maricopa County Superior Court; Clarence Carter, Director, Arizona Department of Economic Security; Steve Twist, President, Arizona Voice for Crime Victims; Dr. J. Kipp Charlton, Pediatrician, Maricopa Medical Center; Dr. Cindy Knott, Vice President, ChildHelp; Dr. Steven Anderson, Director, ASU School of Social Work; Veronica Bossack, Assistant Director, Division of Children Youth and Families, Department of Economic Security; Cassandra Larsen, Director, Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families; Linda Gray, Arizona State Senator; Leah Landrum-Taylor, Arizona State Senator; Eddie Farnsworth, Arizona State Representative; Terri Proud, Arizona State Representative; Dave Byers, Director, Administrative Office of the Courts; Marty Shultz, Community Leader; Anne Donahoe, State Foster Care Review Board, CASA Volunteer; Lt. Katrina Alberty, Glendale Family Advocacy Center; and Grace Bee, Foster Parent.
4. A portions of my interview is to be found in my article on caseworker training on my web site. At the time, I enjoyed the benefit of caseworkers from many states sending me unpublished audits, risk assessment instruments, evidence of departmental revenue maximization strategies, and other valuable material. The web was a much smaller place at that time.
5. The report was issued under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which by that time had come under pressure to do something about the flood of inappropriate reports to the hotlines.
6. The Arizona statute also provides that: “All child protective services workers shall be trained in their duty to protect the legal rights of children and families from the time of the initial contact through treatment. The training shall include knowledge of a child’s rights as a victim of crime. The training for child protective services workers shall also include instruction on the legal rights of parents.” Unfortunately, this section of the statute appears to be routinely disregarded.
7. For more information about this aspect of revenue maximization, see my previous entry Foster Care Candidate Revenue Maximization Schemes Line County Coffers.
6. On September 18, 2006, state Representative Marie J. Parente lost her bid for re-election after serving on Beacon Hill for more than 20 years.
8. For current information regarding federal financial incentives promoting adoptions, see Child Welfare: Structure and Funding of the Adoption Incentives Program along with Reauthorization Issues, Congressional Research Service, April 18, 2013.