Independent Audit Highlights Problems At Arizona Department Of Child Safety
A new report released Tuesday shows Arizona’s child-welfare agency still needs to develop processes to get a handle on a growing number of cases. The Department of Child Safety was created last year after the previous agency failed to investigate more than 6,500 cases of child abuse and neglect.
The Arizona Auditor General commissioned the report by the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall Center for Children. State law passed last year requires an independent group complete the review.
The audit identified problems at DCS with high turnover, caseloads and rising numbers of children in out-of-home care.
Dana Wolfe Naimark with the Children’s Action Alliance, a child-advocacy group, said the lack of available preventive services leads to families ending up in the system.
“We don’t have strong pathways to services,” she said. “You can tell in their interviews with staff at the Department of Child Safety, over and over again the staff said, 'Oh, we don’t see services available. They are not available. We don’t have them to use.' That is a crisis.”
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The report shows families getting childcare subsidies decreased significantly in the last six years. The aid is distributed per child and between 2009 and 2014, 20,000 fewer children got the assistance.
The report also recommended the agency needs to deepen its commitment to accountability and transparency.
“That was also a theme in this report,” said Wolfe Naimark. She said better communication is essential to progress.
“The lack of trust and the confusion between the department and many stakeholders in the community who want to help with the issue and can help with the issues," Wolfe Naimark said.
Director Greg McKay wrote in a statement that the agency recognizes the benefit of these preventive services and is working to improve timely access. He also wrote the department is working to address communication with stakeholders, especially foster parents.