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National report on child welfare in Arizona is not based on facts

As state legislators and co-chairs of the Arizona Children’s Caucus we feel compelled to respond to the report on the state’s child welfare system. “Perennial Panic” was released Aug. 20 by Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. (National group blasts state’s child welfare system, Aug. 24 issue)
This report represents one of two extreme positions, that Arizona should not remove children from their homes in order to protect them from abuse and neglect. The other extreme is that the state should remove all children if there is even the suspicion of problems in the family and the state should act as parents for these children. Both extreme positions are wrong for Arizona’s children. Mr. Wexler’s extreme position ignores the responsibility of a society to protect children and would place our state’s children in jeopardy for their safety.
Mr. Wexler used data inappropriately to make correlations and draw conclusions and shows a total lack of understanding of Arizona’s child welfare system. Most disturbingly, Wexler uses irresponsible and personal attacks on members of the Governor’s Office, state legislators, Arizona’s judicial system and judges, children’s advocates and children’s service providers, including the East Valley Crisis Center and Casa de Los Ninos. He even attacks the United Way.
One could get lost in a tangled web tracking down poor data used in this report. Correlations and conclusions are drawn with no basis in fact. The real issue is that Arizona has made significant improvement since the CPS Special Session of 2003. It is a system that seeks continual and ongoing improvement. It is a system that seeks a balance to both protect the child and protect parental rights and respect the value of the family. Despite the difficulty of this task, this is the goal of this agency.
Our society is facing monumental problems, not the least of which are parental meth abuse and mental illness and family domestic violence, all leading to serious child abuse and neglect. The impact on children is devastating. We know a lot about these negative impacts on children and we’re learning a lot more — fast. The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (www.developingchild.harvard.edu) has elaborated on these devastating developmental impacts. Science should inform policy. We need good solid evaluations and data, not ideologically driven opinions.
Scrutiny and accountability are welcome. No child abuse, neglect or death is acceptable and we must continually evaluate ourselves in order to improve our effectiveness. We know improvements can and must be made.
The Arizona Children’s Caucus since its inception in 2003 has fought consistently for a balance between protecting children and honoring parental rights. We have fought for the resources for prevention (Healthy Families), substance abuse treatment (Families First) and services for families in order to keep children safely in their home (Children’s Services). We will continue to do so.
Rep. Pete Hershberger, R-26, and Sen. Tom O’Halleran, R-1, are co-chairs and co-founders of the Arizona Children’s Caucus.

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