This past week the Arizona Child Welfare community was abuzz with the newly published report on the status of the Arizona Department of Child Welfare by Chapin Hall. In my 14 years as a foster parent the exact same things could have been said about CPS or now DCS every one of those years. Nothing has changed a bit, except the fact that because of a recession and growth in our state the numbers have grown and perhaps gotten even worse.
The recommendations in the report were vague and ambiguous. There is nothing in the report that provides a clear path for DCS leadership to act upon. There are not specific, implementable action items to draw upon nor clear metrics to measure their progress against.
What would have been helpful would have been a recommendation that included key steps, metrics to account for progress and a timeframe from which if followed, these steps would product favorable outcomes. Even something as simple as “follow these three steps and you will have 3,000 less children in care in 18 months”. Where is that report?
Instead, we got another report from bureaucrats who specialize in pontificating and not doing the hard work of building, executing, measuring and being accountable for their actions.
The report is accurate and they did a commendable job of interviewing and gathering feedback, but there is nothing new. We need a roadmap to future success, not a story we can tell about our past failings.
So why does this keep happening? I think it is simple, because no one with the authority to do so cares enough to make it happen.
Last night I volunteered at the new DCS intake center. This is the place where kids that have just been removed go before they are placed with another of their family members or with a foster family or in a group home. To start, I fed and changed a two day old baby, changed a three day old baby and handed her off for another volunteer to feed and then held a two month old drug exposed baby who wouldn’t stop crying. It was sad.
Then, older kids started showing up so I moved down the hall to help with them (which I was probably better suited for anyway!). That started by helping towel off a two year old who had to get a quick bath because he threw up on himself due to the anxiety of the ride over to the center. Then I made a bunch of macaroni and cheese dinners, crackers and soups with a few juice boxes. We played a little. And then …. My heart melted.
It was bedtime and I was asked to help my new buddy “E” get his pajamas on to get ready for bed. He looked at me with big scared eyes and nervousness and asked why he needed pajamas. I told “E” so he could go to sleep. He then sheepishly asked me why he was going to be sleeping there. I couldn’t tell him why …. and my heart than sank.
I’ve always said that what makes for a great parent is the willingness to put the child’s best interests ahead of their own. This ensures that a child always gets the best of their parents.
That doesn’t happen in foster care. First of all, the children’s parents have already dropped the ball. Then they come in to care and sadly, no one puts their best interests at the front of the line. The real reason why “E” needs to sleep at the intake center is that we don’t have enough people in Arizona who care enough to make sure he never has to have that experience, or if he does, that it would be less of an intrusion in his life and hopefully, less stressful.
We need politicians and a community that care more about children than their own self interests. Until then, we will get more bureaucratic analysis and no substantive changes.