Fewer than 10,000 children are in the state’s guardianship for the first time in 15 years, Gov. Katie Hobbs announced at a bill signing in a Mesa church.
She compared that to the more than 19,000 children that were in the foster care system in 2019.
“This is a testament to the work we have done over the last several years to reform and improve our system,” Hobbs said Thursday.
The announcement came before her signing Senate Bill 1186, introduced by Senator Ken Bennett, R-Prescott. The bill updated language and expanded the rights for both the children and foster guardians.
A change in the bill includes that a relative should be the first choice of care if it is in the best interest of the child. That includes being put in care with or close proximity to a sibling.
The new law also lays out the child must receive medical, dental, vision and mental health services and to be informed by diagnosis and treatment options if it is “developmentally appropriate.” The bill added language that no child should “be subjected to unauthorized discipline.”
Changes for foster caregivers include the requirement to report a violation of the rights laid out in the bill without fear of punishment or retaliation. It also includes guidelines on how a foster guardian can report a violation to the state’s office of ombudsman.
“This bill ensures those rights are honored so that families are supported while navigating the complexities of the child welfare system,” said David Lujan, the director for the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
Lujan said that a new copy with the bill of rights for children and foster parents will be widely available so both groups are knowledgeable of the updates.
Reporter Maritza Dominguez covers Mesa and Gilbert and can be reached at email@example.com or 480-271-0646. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter: @maritzacdom.