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Foster parents fired up about failures within Arizona Department of Child Safety | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Foster care advocates are upset about what they consider systemic failures within the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

This week, state lawmakers met to consider whether to terminate the agency entirely in response to findings from the Arizona Auditor General. Ultimately, the committee voted to keep DCS, but the audit recommended major changes.

Some foster parents and state legislators said there are not enough checks and balances within DCS, many even arguing the system meant to protect vulnerable kids is abusing them. “These were the most traumatic experiences of my life,” said one foster parent who testified in front of the Senate and House Health and Human Services committees this week. “Do I have to send her with this angry man who showed up in a taxi cab with no car seat? She’s 10 months old. Yes, I do have to send her in the taxi cab to drive an hour plus across town,” she added during the hearing.

She said that is how DCS handled visitations dozens of times in her case. The foster care mother said she cared for a baby girl for 29 months and was given 10 case managers during that time. Without warning, the child was reunited with her biological mother. “I would say that it would seem that the last case that DCS is concerned about is the safety of children,” that foster parent’s mother testified.

These concerns are not new. The latest state audit found that DCS had not fully implemented 42 of 58 recommendations from previous audits. The new report found issues with court report timeliness and quality, and a slow response to investigate complaints, leading to even more recommendations from the Arizona Auditor General.

DCS executive deputy director David Lujan said the agency’s No. 1 priority is child safety. “We will adopt all of the recommendations that are in the Auditor General’s report. We’re taking steps already. Some have already been addressed,” he said during the hearing.

But some advocates are not convinced. Anika Robinson has been a foster parent for 16 years. “In the time that I’ve been a licensed foster parent, there’s been four different directors. Each one of those directors has come in and stated that they’re going to change the culture, that they’re going to follow policy, that they’re going to follow law, and time and time again that continues to not be the norm,” she said. “They are the only agency that I’m aware of that can kind of get away with hurting and abusing children to some degree and they’re not penalized for breaking the law.”

The Senate and House Health and Human Services committees voted this week to continue DCS for four years. But some lawmakers voted no, saying more oversight and accountability are needed for the $1.2 billion agency. The Auditor General will follow up with DCS in March to check on the progress.

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