With another recent tragedy of three Phoenix children murdered and dismembered by their mother and the fact that at least another 1,500 children nationally will die from maltreatment, often at the hands of their caregivers, is it not unacceptable and just too simplistic to think that the statement released by the Arizona Department of Child Safety’s June 3rd press release in response to their three prior investigations is to comment that “our powers are limited to prevent such a tragedy; and, we cannot predict the future.”
Has DCS leadership not embraced the “Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities” report recent findings and recommendations? For instance, our current child welfare structure of intervening only after a problem occurs isn’t effective; that approximately 80 percent of the children living in poverty in the United States are concentrated in just 20 percent of the residential Zip codes; and, that our nation, and, especially inclusive of the State of Arizona’s Department of Child Safety cannot eliminate the deaths that result from abuse and neglect with their unclearly stated and uncommunicated “Practice Model,” child rescue mentality, and their neglect to reimagine and articulate that the most effective way to ensure for effective child welfare results is to align our state’s financial investments we receive from the federal government with our desired outcomes for child well-being.
The policymakers in Washington, D.C., have recognized an opportunity to better support at-risk children and their families. Leaders from both sides of the aisle have proposed ideas and legislation to more effectively invest in safe children, strong families and supportive communities. Twenty-eight states are already demonstrating that they can better leverage federal funding to improve outcomes for children and families through Child Welfare Waiver Demonstration projects. For every $7 the federal government makes available to Arizona only $1 is available to help stop harm before it happens. Yes, the DCS 2017 budget allocates $4 million for the same old prevention services the way the former child welfare agency the (Department of Children, Youth and Families has conducted these “fee for service contracts” as opposed to a desired “performance-based contract” model, forever) and, yes the DCS 2017 budget increases foster home recruitment and foster parent stipends for caring for older youth ages 12-18 years of age. However, without better leveraging of federal funding, and investing in “state of the science” evidence-based foster parent training and foster family evidence-based treatment models rather than just finding and developing “more foster home beds” DCS’s current financial model will serve as the wakeup call as this means that most child welfare services will continue to be made available only after children have been harmed or neglected and removed from their homes.
Arizona’s child welfare system, which indeed has long been troubled, will not improve as long as DCS continues to use outdated, ineffective and costly practices; and a lack of political will to recognize when something is not working and make the necessary changes.
John DeStefano is from Flagstaff