Audio by Christopher Conover
Preventing families from needing the state's Child Protection Services is the best way to solve the agency's problems, according to an Arizona child advocacy organization.
CPS has been hampered with news of more than 6,000 un-investigated cases of child abuse and neglect, and newly-discovered missing case records.
"We've gotten here over a very long time of cutting services to children, cutting services to families," said Penelope Jacks, the Southern Arizona director of Children's Action Alliance. "As a result we have a huge influx of children to the CPS system."
The un-investigated cases are "just the tip of the iceberg," she said, because there are another 10,000 inactive CPS cases, and 12,000 open cases, which she said should be resolved and closed.
The organization is a statewide nonprofit agency that advocates for children, including lobbying the Arizona Legislature for funding and programs that benefit children, Jacks said.
The problem with CPS is lack of good administration, she said.
Gov. Jan Brewer created a committee to oversee an investigation into CPS' problems, and Jacks said it's a good first step, but prevention is a better way to stop CPS from continuing to be in the news with problems.
"There are now several different committees looking at CPS, and I hope they find a way to share what they know and work together," Jacks said.
The Legislature has cut funding in recent years for daycares, meaning 74 percent of the kids who had subsidized daycare then don't receive it now. That's an example of how restoring funding could prevent future CPS cases, Jacks said.
"Where are those children? We don't know. Who's taking care of those kids? We don't know," she said.
The alliance wants the state to spend money, if necessary, to solve the existing problems, but a long-term solution is to funnel state funds to programs and services that prevent families from getting to the emergency situation in which CPS steps in.
"It's easy to be angry and blame somebody but honestly that doesn't get us very far," she said. "CPS is the end game, the real part of the story is keeping families together."