Child Protective Services (CPS) is one of the most sacred trusts and duties of adult generations to the most vulnerable members of the next generation of children. The Governor’s Task Force on Child Safety has made their recommendations and to almost no one’s surprise, more funding and resources are needed. Now, the governor and the Legislature must fulfill their profound responsibility for our collective obligation to our most vulnerable children.
We all know the difference in quality between a Yugo and Lexus. CPS cannot be done on the cheap.
We agree the state’s child protection services must be reformed and improved. We agree that we must strengthen our investigation protocols, front end and forensic screening. However, we know that these reforms must come with significant additional resources.
CPS suffered severe devastating budget cuts in the spring of 2009. Those budget cuts disrupted the CPS system by eliminating more than 200 staff positions and many critical community prevention and intervention services at a time when the CPS system was already 200 staff below its own caseload standards. CPS has not fully recovered from those severe cuts, despite their partial restoration later that year because of the huge public outcry and the pleas from the Department of Economic Security’s interim director.
The additional cuts to the larger health and human services safety net have all negatively impacted the CPS system. Most CPS cases involve neglect or poor parenting. CPS relies on social services organizations, public and private, to help these troubled families become healthy families. Without an adequate safety net, the CPS system doesn’t have the broader community resources to do its assigned job for children with families.
The Legislature has never really trusted nor had confidence in DES or CPS. Now it has the unfettered chance to build the legal oversight and transparency, and budget and management structures to insure sustained legislative confidence while carrying out its sacred responsibility to protect children.
The governor and Legislature have a unique opportunity to redeem the harm done by the shortsighted decisions from 2009 budget cuts and correct their historical lack of confidence in CPS. CPS is not an experiment that can be endlessly manipulated by ideological values or political perspectives. It is a sacred duty.
In the end, it is only the children who pay the price for our adult political differences and machinations. The governor and the Legislature now have full responsibility for the well-being of vulnerable children in our state.
We can all hope and pray they act on their sacred duty and responsibility for children.
-Timothy Schmaltz is coordinator of Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition (PAFCO)