Why was SB 1062 A Higher Priority Than Our Kids?

The last two weeks brought another embarrassing situation about Arizona and our politicians to the forefront of America’s consciousness. Business people, sports organizations and various political and social groups and even comedians brought unwanted negative attention to our state and demonstrated another poor performance by our legislators.

To our governor’s credit, in her remarks announcing that she was going to veto SB 1062, she gave somewhat of a tongue lashing to other politicians for making this the first bill of the session to hit her desk, when she has clearly pointed out that legislation for reforming CPS was a significantly higher priority. Good for her for reminding everyone that we have a distressing situation here in Arizona and it must be a priority to get fixed.

Why would any politician push aside an important and critical issue like the protection of our state’s most vulnerable children for an issue that was so polarizing? It defies logic.

The whole event was a great example of why we have issues with CPS in the first place. Children are not a priority for our lawmakers. They clearly do not understand that caring for vulnerable children has a lasting and long-term effect on our state. Instead, they look at short-term issues that may help bridge them to their next election. How sad is that and what does that say about the people we elect to represent us?

From high school civics classes years ago, I still remember our teacher telling us how the role of government was to serve the people of its community. Maybe it’s time our legislator’s went back and took another civics lesson on what their role should be before the next election!

This past week I also sat in another CPS Oversight Committee meeting. The new director of the new CPS (now named Child Safety and Family Services), Charles Flanagan gave an overview of the work done by the C.A.R.E. team which he was also appointed to lead. Director Flanagan is working hard to learn about the issues facing the agency and clearly understands from his work with the C.A.R.E. team that the agency is broken. Processes are ineffective, turnover is rampant because processes have failed or don’t exist and leadership has built a poor culture around this dysfunction.

While optimistic that Director Flanagan will bring the same effectiveness to the new CPS (CSFS) that he had in the juvenile probation system, I am still extremely frustrated that no one on the committee is holding anyone in any agency accountable for what is happening today.

While I understand that Director Flanagan is new and folks want to give him time to find his way around, I have also seen what happens to children who spend too much time in care and don’t get the services they need in a timely fashion, if at all.  Likewise, I know many frustrated foster parents who can’t reach a case manager to discuss an important issue.  Often, CPS case workers don’t show up for FCRB meetings and are unprepared in court hearings. We must hold CPS/CFSF accountable for what is happening today. Kids should not have to wait when their short lives depend on us for their care.

Enough is enough. Start measuring outcomes today and evaluating where we stand and the problems at hand! Much of the information we need to hold the agency accountable is available in Foster Care Review Board data.  Just ask for them to provide reporting while Director Flanagan does his work. As Director Flanagan likes to say, transparency is key to high performance. Let’s start that transparency today.

Call your representatives, write letters and emails to Director Flanagan, get involved in foster parent issues and let the rest of Arizona (and maybe even the rest of the US) know that there are more important issues for our legislators than SB 1062. Our state deserves better. Our kids deserve better. Make your voice heard!

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