CPS visitation trouble -- some parents may get to see kids soon
Private agencies that supervise court-ordered visits are slowly getting referrals they need to resume visits Video by kgun9.comvideo
Aviva Director Bob Heslinga says Tuesday his agency may be able to supervise its' first parent child visit since a CPS funding shut off made him lay off staff and suspend visits
State Senator-elect Steve Farley says CPS is causing needless delay by requiring new referrals before visits can resume
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It's been almost exactly a month since what CPS called a misunderstanding shut off visits between troubled parents and their kids.
The holidays came and went while parents and kids wondered when they'd see each other.
Nine on Your Side has been following this story since the trouble appeared, now as Craig Smith reports, some visits involving some of the private agencies that supervise visits under contract, could resume as soon as Tuesday.
The visiting rooms have been empty at Aviva Children's Services since early last month. That's when a surge in troubled families cleaned out Aviva's budget sooner than expected. When CPS wouldn't extend funding, Aviva had to lay off staff and shut down supervised child-parent visits.
Now CPS is gradually doling out funding, but requiring new case referrals before approving visits.
Aviva director Bob Heslinga says so far 17 families are approved for visits. His agency used to serve 110.
KGUN 9 reporter Craig Smith asked Heslinga: "Have they created more work by requiring fresh referrals to resume this process?
Heslinga laughed as he said, "You know, your guess is as good as mine. It would seem to me that it is. There now has to go through...I'll tell you what we're dealing with right now. We've got the 17 referrals. That means that we have to contact the case manager. We have to get letters out to the biological family as well as the foster placement. We have to set up a schedule. It takes a minimum, a minimum of two days to get that done, if, we can indeed find a case manager at their desk."
State Rep, soon to be State Senator Steve Farley, says it makes no sense to slow down visits with new referral requirements. He says citizens should push lawmakers to make sure CPS can and does take good care of kids.
"I'm thankful you're on this. I hope people keep paying attention to this. Too often these kids in trouble are forgotten until somebody gets killed; and we have to act before that happens."
Here's a sad piece of arithmetic.
Before the shut down, as just one agency among many, Aviva served 110 families, and usually oversaw at least two visits, per family, per week.
Through December, through the holidays and up to the gradual ramp up now, that's about 880 visits that did not happen.
Some visits may have happened under direct CPS supervision.
On Monday KGUN9 asked CPS how many visitations it handled in the interim. You'll recall, it promised the public previously that "nothing would change." But now it rurns that that CPS can't tell you whether it kept that promise. CPS responded late Monday and basically said it doesn't know how many visits it actually handled. An agency spokesperson says CPS workers often supervise visits as part of their regular duties and they're not required to keep track of those visits.
The Arizona Legislature starts next week.
Senator-elect Steve Farley thinks prospects might be fairly good because there's so much talk about CPS now but he says there's often a strong resistance to appropriating more money for almost anything.