CPS seeks funds to stop keeping kids in offices overnight
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - For months, KGUN9 On Your Side has been talking about how Arizona Child Protective Services is so hard pressed for foster parents, kids sometimes spend the night in CPS offices.
CPS told 9OYS over and over, that rarely happens.
Now the agency's budget request basically concedes that it is, in fact, a problem.
It asks for emergency foster care space and a lot more workers.
When 9OYS first learned CPS was housing kids in state offices, the agency insisted the situation was very rare, but later said it couldn't document how many times it did happen.
Now the agency's new budget request concedes there's almost 50 million dollars worth of trouble -- and housing kids in offices is only a small part of it.
There are so many families in crisis, CPS has been removing more children for their own safety.
It's said all along that it needed to recruit more foster parents, but when KGUN9 asked the agency whether it needed more help to pay for emergency shelters to avoid housing kids in state offices, the agency said it was so rare that there was no need for budget help for that issue.
Now the CPS budget request for next year asks for more money for what it calls receiving homes -- basically the emergency foster homes 9OYS asked about.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith said to Governor Brewer's spokesman Matt Benson: "CPS has said, sometimes pretty adamantly, that they didn't truly need something like standby foster homes of that sort and it looks like this document calls for those now."
Benson: "I can't speak for CPS. What I can tell you is that they've made a budget proposal here that reflects a need for additional resources and the Governor's going to take this seriously. She's gonna look it over. Child safety in the state of Arizona is a huge priority for Governor Brewer."
But Benson goes on to say CPS needs will have to balance against what other agencies need.
Barely two weeks ago, CPS said it was fully staffed with caseworkers.
But now, CPS is also looking to hire another 200 caseworkers, and spend more to recruit foster families.
Tucson's Casa De Los Ninos is a leader in providing foster case. Director Susie Huhn said it may be especially hard to establish emergency foster homes.
"It's got to be people that are available 24/7," Huhn said. "People that can at a drop of a hat take a child or a sibling group into their home. That's a little harder than a regular foster home that has more of a planned placement."
After years of budget cuts, the state does have a budget surplus. When 9OYS looked at these problems before, even lawmakers who are real budget conservatives said they could probably support more money for the safety of kids.
But the help won't happen right away. These budget requests are for a budget that starts in July. Unless there's a special session to amend the existing budget that means nine more months of CPS struggling with what it has.