Ted Simons: The governor is proposing nearly $78 million in new funding for child protective services. But that just begins to address the needs of Arizona children. That's according to our next guest, Dana Naimark, president and CEO of children's action alliance. Good to see you again.
Dana Naimark: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us. Improving CPS, increasing staff, not enough?
Dana Naimark: Well, the governor's budget proposal is the bare minimum we need for basic child safety. And really what it does is keep up with the growth in demand. We have had a 33% increase in the number of reports of abuse and neglect. 34% increase in the number of kids in foster care. We simply can't keep up with that without more resources.
Ted Simons: What do you want to see from the governor, the legislature? It sounds like timely investigations are needed. Aren't these things improving? Obviously they're not improving fast enough for most folks but they are improving, are they not?
Dana Naimark: A lot is not improving even though CPS is making changes in their systems, becoming more efficient and doing some things better. More and more kids are coming into the system, they can't keep up. We're not seeing the actual outcomes for kids improve until we get more resources in there to compliment the changes in the system.
Ted Simons: Before we get to resources, what about caseloads, is that not getting better?
Dana Naimark: Caseloads are double what they should be. It is overwhelming.
Ted Simons: You are saying this money helps but not much?
Dana Naimark: This will keep us on the treadmill. We need this money as a bare minimum and we need to keep improving the systems and work on prevention. We have to help families become stronger so that they do not need CPS.
Ted Simons: Let’s talk about resources and services. Parent support services --
Dana Naimark: The Governor's proposal a $10 million increase which is desperately needed. Things like substance abuse treatment so parents can reunify safely with their kids and they can become better and more responsible parents. Other kinds of counseling and coaching so families can stay together safely --
Ted Simons: $10.4 million For families and kids in foster care or headed for foster care?
Dana Naimark: It is both. Primarily for families where the kids are in foster care and we want to work to reunify the kids with their parents as much as we can.
Ted Simons: $9.6 million to meet the growth of caseloads, you are saying that is nowhere near enough --
Dana Naimark: Right. Money in there for child care, and if we don't get that funding, we will be kicking kids out of the child care that they're in right now.
Ted Simons: And the 200 more CPS caseworkers, which was the headline grabbing aspect of all of this, encouraging slightly.
Dana Naimark: Well, it is. State legislature this session, at the very beginning, unanimously came together in a bipartisan way and approved new staff with supplemental funding for this year. That was a great start to the session and a great indication of how important child safety is. But that's not enough. We need the other 150 staff just to keep up with the influx. Right now we have too many -- we have thousands ,10,000’s of cases that come in that are not investigated in a timely way because the staff is overwhelmed.
Ted Simons: $34.5 million for kids in shelters, group homes, centers and these sorts of things. And it seems to me like the goal it would seem is to keep these kids out of these places.
Dana Naimark: That is the goal. Right now when we don't have alternatives and not set up to provide services and safety, foster care is a necessity. It always will be a necessity for some kids. We definitely want to reduce the number in foster care and we know we can do that going forward. There is some legislation going through the legislature that will help us do that. Right now we need the money to keep up with the very basic services.
Ted Simons: So, the bottom line is that CPS additional funding for everything from caseworkers, group homes, foster homes, it's good but not enough?
Dana Naimark: Correct. We are asking the legislature to look at the governor's budget proposal as the bare minimum. $77 million proposal and it is all vitally needed. And so we're really working on making sure that every member of the legislature understands those needs, and then can look at it and also ask what else can we do to improve child protection?
Ted Simons: Do you think lawmakers don't understand those needs?
Dana Naimark: You know what, they're asking really good questions. I'm very encouraged about that. Very concerned about the growth in foster care. They're asking how do we prevent this? How do we turn it around? They're also asking how do we know that when we invest in child protective services that we are improving child safety? The dialogue is excellent. We want to make sure that that stays on the radar screen as they begin to negotiate the budget.
Ted Simons: That is a good point. Is there a sense of accountability that can be forwarded or encouraged or enhanced out there to satisfy some lawmakers' concerns?
Dana Naimark: Absolutely. With the supplemental funding required new reporting from the department of economic security. We are very much supportive of that and making sure there is accountability and we're all talking together about what are the benchmarks that we need to improve and how do we get there.
Ted Simons: One last question. I'm a lawmaker. Are you telling me more CPS funding is needed or more serviced surrounding CPS funding is needed?
Dana Naimark: We need the governor's budget for CPS as a bare minimum and how do we help to support families so that they do not need support in the first place. We are having the conversations to show lawmakers that they do not want to be in this position next year with the huge growth in foster care.
Ted Simons: Are you encouraged?
Dana Naimark: I am. Again, we want to make sure that the spotlight is on kids as they go into the negotiations.
Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us.
Dana Naimark: Thank you.