"When will I see my kids again?": Confusion rampant over possible CPS cuts
Local child service agencies say cuts could affect service, result in layoffs
Aviva Children's Services is one of 11 agencies in Pima County who say CPS told them the money is just not there. So after tomorrow, supervised visits at Aviva will stop. Video by kgun9.comvideo
Aviva's Executive Director Bob Heslinga says CPS told him this was a money issue.
Margarita Verdugo wonders when she will see her kids again now that supervised visits at Aviva have stopped due to budget cuts.
CPS claims this is not about money.
Reporter: Marcelino Benito
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - An uncertain future hangs over thousands of Pima County children in CPS custody. These are children who rely on local child service agencies for supervised visits with their parents. These visits help re-unite families over time. But now a round of potential CPS cuts could put all that in jeopardy. It means an uncertain Christmas for parents and their children.
"My children were crying when they left here," said Margarita Verdugo.
For kids in the system places like Aviva are a dreamworld, where they can be kids again. For women like Margarita it can be much more.
"It's very, very personal," she said.
It's a place where women like her learn to be mothers.
9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito asked Verdugo what places like Aviva mean to her. She replied, "It means a lot. It's my second home where I get to see my kids. We eat here, we talk here, we do homework here. We even play together here."
But after Friday, Aviva's rooms won't be filled with kids and their parents. No more supervised visits at these local agencies. It will all be the responsibility of CPS caseworkers. People who already handle 4 times the national average caseloads.
"Our almost 1,000 visits a month are going to fall on the shoulders of people who are already seriously burdened," said Bob Heslinga.
Heslinga is Executive Director at Aviva Children's Services. He tells 9OYS that CPS officials told him and 10 other agencies that there was no more money.
In a statement to 9OYS, CPS denies that. Spokeswoman Tasya Peterson writes in part: "While total dollars have not been reduced, the Department is looking at areas it can be more fiscally responsible."
Heslinga says CPS is misleading the public.
"That's not what we were told on Monday, they said there was a money issue," he said.
Heslinga calls it an unbelievable turn of events. And it comes in the midst of a holiday season. Paper ornaments crafted by kids and their families just days ago still hang on the tree. A vivid reminder of what this place did for so many.
Benito asked Heslinga who he thinks loses out the most with this decision. He replied, "The kids, the kids lose. Is this hard on us? Yes. Is this hard on me? You can bet your sweet petunia it is. This is a very challenging time for all of us. But it's not about me, it's not about the staff. Bottom line is it's about the kids. That's why we do what we do."
But for now what they do and do well is on hold. And that's the worst part for moms like Margarita not knowing when or where she'll see her kids again.
"It's just not knowing that scares me, because I love my children so much," she said.
Since Margarita heard the news, she's been calling her CPS caseworker to find out what's next. Unfortunately, she still has not been able to get through. And that's the real concern: that CPS caseworkers won't be able to juggle these supervised visits for all these extra cases.
As far as Aviva goes, the agency's board will meet Monday to discuss the future of its more than 70 employees.
Stay with KGUN9 for more as this story develops.