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Arizona’s children can’t languish in a malaise of more trauma and neglect

Upset children

Have the Legislature and governor finally given up on Arizona’s children?  Is there Department of Child Safety “DCS fatigue?”  Have the Legislature’s and the governor’s frustration and disappointment in DCS with its lack of any reliable results for children rendered them powerless to do anything about it?

The questioning at the recent DCS budget hearings was tepid, timid, and tired.  The current Republican Legislative budget proposals do not move the department forward.  Rather the proposals tread water while children seem to be drowning in the instability and chaos without the resources and qualified professional staff to do their job.

DCS can’t keep qualified staff.  DCS has one-third fewer professional staff than their authorized levels (about 950 out of 1,406). DCS has a 36 percent turnover rate for case managers.  This means only about a third of the workforce they need is actually in place to do their mission.  Caseloads continue to be at least 53 percent above professional standards.  Over 21,000 children are in DCS custody and care.  The DCS director admits workloads are overwhelming and staff does not have the toolkits they need.  Yet the proposed budget offers little in authentic scalable solutions to this workforce and children’s crisis.

Timothy Schmaltz, president of the National Association of Social Workers Arizona Chapter

Timothy Schmaltz, president of the National Association of Social Workers Arizona Chapter

There are many viable, feasible solutions for DCS to create life-giving results for children and families. The Arizona Republic’s articles — “4 fixes for Arizona’s broken child-welfare system” — outlined clear directions for significant evidenced based improvements and results.

We offer three additional focused solutions to those four fixes.

• Workforce development must be part of short-term and long-term solutions to close the gap on number of workers with significant pay incentives and benefits.  The Arizona Republic article points to stabilization of staff as one of the four keys fixes required.  However, without short-term significant increases in salary and benefits and long term workforce development, DCS will never be stabilized.  All the professional front line positions probably need $10,000 raises to attract and retain qualified professional staff.  With the savings from staff vacancies, DCS should implement the $10,000 raises immediately.  Then if staff starts to stabilize and improve DCS should come back to the Legislature for more money with its proven solutions.  The Legislature and governor must finally recognize the dignity and difficulty of professional child welfare work.

• Eliminate stigma around poverty and families asking for help.  DCS needs increased funding for proven prevention policies and programs or the foster care growth will continue unabated.  Almost 70 percent of DCS referrals are neglect related to poverty and substance abuse.  The vast majority of child protection is about helping families, not rescuing children from crime.  One result of the anti-poor cuts to health and human services is to promote a public stigma against families in crisis approaching the system for help.

• Improve DCS leadership. DCS needs the intervention of the governor to mobilize an urgent community strike force of the best and brightest from the child welfare community, including the universities and community agencies and task them with enough authority to fully address this crisis and stabilize DCS, while Mr. McKay and his staff deal with daily operations.  The governor must realize that it is critical he change course and augment the current leadership with additional resources and additional highly qualified, professional, experienced, inspiring child welfare leadership, or this crisis will continue to worsen.  And children will continue to suffer needlessly.

Arizona’s children can’t languish in a malaise of more trauma and neglect.  Too many children’s lives are at stake with current DCS methods and leadership.  Change is necessary.  It is not enough to pull children from the fire.  The governor must take bold and decisive actions for the sake of Arizona’s most vulnerable children and their families.

 Timothy Schmaltz is president of the Arizona Chapter of National Association of Social Workers.

10 comments

  1. Del McArdle - Champion for KIDS

    DCS WREAKS harm on families, communities, and kids! Arizona’s growing Warrantless Removal Epidemic Against Kids has been SOLVED= WARRANTS before SEIZING kids are required.
    Warrants are the solution to DCS exploding seizure numbers. Caseworkers are quitting the department gig fast because they know they’re wreaking harm on families. They have WAY too many cases and way too much pressure to close out cases and thus SEIZING a child away from family is the all too easy and all too common practice under Gregory A. McKay today. 21k seized kids became wards and are stuck in AZ care now with nearly 1k newly seized kids forced into this broken system each month. DCS is in SHAMBLES!!! Implementing the solution to the unwarranted seizure epidemic will be life changing for caseworkers, communities, families, and kids alike. Keep asking DCS to implement the new Warrant policy before a kid you love falls victim to the warrantless seizure epidemic. End the WREAK!

    Del McArdle
    602.446.1800

  2. Who defines neglect? How many of these children were taken because of Imminent danger? Does the trauma of removal outweigh the potential risk? What are the numbers of those children who have suffered emotional and physical trauma and even death after being removed. How many Arizona families have been destroyed from being needlessly ripped apart by those appointed to protect them? I agree that children should be protected but the DCS has abused it’s power. Follow the money. Accountability for Arizona’s DCS and Family Court is long overdue.

  3. I was a case manager for DCS for ten years. I absolutely loved working with children and their families and stayed in the “field” the whole time. I would constantly advocate for families and was ultimately “bullied” out of my job. After challenging management about not allowing children to remain with appropriate family members or other adults in the family unit; management began to bully me. I went to director McKay (no reply), HR, 2 legislators, and upper management and in response I was deemed insubordinate. The retaliation finally escalated to the point I was placed on unpaid administrative leave for wearing my hat in my cubicle,at 8 in the morning. When I returned a week later,I submitted my resignation letter directly to Mr McKay and management. I could name at least 7 separate times I was not allowed to place children with relatives after the relative “had words” with a manager or a biased worker. I was blacklisted by management as “aggressive.” I ended my 10 year career with DCS and had earned Employee of the year,never had a child harmed under my care, and was respected by attorneys and judges; most importantly the people. Imagine how many other families are going through the same thing? Arizona wants change? Start with the top..too many managers, not enough workers. All other points described in this article are valid and great ideas.

  4. The decision to take a child away from his or her parents should not be at the discretion of an unstable workforce and parental rights should not be terminated because someone is poor. Require warrants to remove children. Set early reunification goals for poverty cases. Use mediation/conflict resolution conferences as part of the case management process to deal with non-compliance.

  5. Thank you for bringing up the fact that families are being discriminated against over poverty. And not only that- many parents have come forward with proof that DCS told outright lies to justify taking their kids. As others said above me, removing kids has become all too easy. The concept itself makes no sense- if a parent is so horrible that their children shouldn’t live with them, shouldn’t the parent be removed? Exactly how many (or how few, as the case may be), of these parents have done something to warrant prosecution? AZ media and legislators need to demand an accountability from DCS as to why they are removing all these kids. And why they are putting so many into foster or group homes instead of with family.

  6. Arizona DCS is out of control! They need to SLOW down and REALLY think BEFORE seizing KIDS. It’s insane how under trained and fast to snatch kids Greg McKays removal unit is. Please sign the petition to compel Greg McKay and AZ DCS to follow the 4th amendment and obtain a warrant to seize kids in non-emergency circumstances.

    https://www.change.org/p/delpmca-gmail-com-az-dcs-to-abide-by-laws-requiring-a-warrant-from-the-court-before-seizing-a-child?recruiter=516819125&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink

    https://www.facebook.com/DCSWREAKS

  7. Dcs has turned my life upside down . They took my son lied in court and to my face and get away with it cause there is no one there to back you up. I say break out the tape recorders people record everything or they will steal your babies and sell them leaving parents and children lost and wanting to end life. Where do you go from here no where. Crazy is what they leave you with. I will tell you this much you will never ever have your once normal life ever again once dcs comes into play. One more thing it won’t stop they are making a fortune off our kids making parents jump threw hoops while taking your kids into foster homes where they are abused. Instead of taking kids away put some one in the home to help if that does not help then removal may be nessasary , but they instead take children first assume and don’t care to ask questions and if they do they will turn it all againsed you. I say fight back record any and every visit I bet your case will be dropped faster then they took your kids!FIGHT back

  8. Lorriane Patterson

    Do no harm is not followed by CPS now DCS , judges, prosecutors , pyschologists ,court appointed attorneys …even the clerks will withhold your court docs. from you so judges can say you didn’t object. Parents are lied about endemically here. You are denied notice of hearings and the charges against you that are some fantasy made up by cps . For example they say – parent abuses drugs and/ or is mentally ill .are not given to you until after court or just minutes before your first hearing . In my case the judges refused exculpatory ecidence . Others and myself are threatened with false charges and in my case my life long held teaching licenses were used in the threats becuase we do not agree to let our child be detained . Foster homes are unstable snd unsafe . CPS only wants the nearly billion dollars a year from federal funds if children are detained at the first hearing so children are always detained whether the charges are true or not. At no time during the procsss can you get your exculpatory evidence on record. Appellate judges overturned only 1 parental termination out of 1,089 cases. One should be statistcialy impossible but not in AZ. Lying by cps violates consitutional law ….Beltran v. Santa Clara County …but when you go to federal they obstruct parents from AZ out of court. We can never get our civil rights enfroced here and win like other states do oddly!

  9. Lorriane Patterson

    Do no harm is not followed by CPS now DCS , judges, prosecutors , pyschologists ,court appointed attorneys …even the clerks will withhold your court docs. from you so judges can say you didn’t object. Parents are lied about endemically here. You are denied notice of hearings and the charges against you that are some fantasy made up by cps . For example they say – parent abuses drugs and/ or is mentally ill. These false charges are not given to you until after court or just minutes before your first hearing . In my case the judges refused exculpatory ecidence . Others and myself are threatened with false charges and in my case my life long held teaching licenses were used in the threats becuase we do not agree to let our child be detained . Foster homes are unstable snd unsafe . CPS only wants the nearly billion dollars a year from federal funds if children are detained at the first hearing so children are always detained whether the charges are true or not. At no time during the procsss can you get your exculpatory evidence on record. Appellate judges overturned only 1 parental termination out of 1,089 cases. One should be statistcialy impossible but not in AZ. Lying by cps violates consitutional law ….Beltran v. Santa Clara County …but when you go to federal they obstruct parents from AZ out of court. We can never get our civil rights enfroced here and win like other states do oddly!

  10. Claudia Martinez

    These are all great stories and ideas, but what about the Actual Victims? Turn some of that attention on re opening cases and getting our kids back home and away from the REAL child abusers! My 14 year old is in Pima County Juvenile Detention waiting to be sentenced to bootcamp til he’s 18 for running away from the physical, emotional, and verbal abuse from his ” Adopted Mother”( my ex mother in law who worked for cps and is Not his Biological Grandmother) who has been calling all the shots since this started and now has my 2 oldest in and out of real bad peoples homes while she collects a check for my 6 babies!! Justice for Eduardo in PCJCC! May God Help us all when this generation of innocent angels retaliate. I need help now please and don’t know where to find it.

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