/ Modified mar 4, 2016 6:12 p.m.

Slow Progress in Reform of State Child Safety Agency

'Cultural changes' are not going to happen overnight, lawmakers say.

The number of children in state foster care continues to rise as does the turnover rate of caseworkers.

“The changes that need to happen are cultural, the changes are going to have to happen to the system are not going to happen overnight,” Rep. Chris Ackerley, R-Sahuarita, said.

Arizona Week Friday reports on the ongoing effort to change the Department of Child Safety, one of Arizona’s largest agencies.

Senate president Andy Biggs says the Legislature has increased funding 350 percent over the last four years.

“I think we can all come to the bipartisan conclusion now that it is better to keep a child in their home with services where possible,” Biggs said. “Our removal rate is an outlier nationally.”

There are efforts outside of the Legislature to reduce the strain on foster families. Care Portal allows families to request items – from food to furniture – from Arizona churches.

“We have an opportunity and a responsibility to help DCS meet the needs of these children in our community,” said Sue Baird, Arizona regional manager of Care Portal.

First Assembly of God church in Tucson is one of the first congregations to pilot the program. Its members scour the Internet for the best deals on what families need.

One item kids are most excited to receive is a bed, church volunteer Joe Crandell said.

“They jump on the bed immediately," Crandell said. "As soon as you set it up they go, ‘Oh mom, is this mine?’"

The money for the program comes from donations. DCS hopes to expand Care Portal to 100 churches in Pima County and eventually to Maricopa County.

On the program:

  • AZPM’s Christopher Conover reports on how a program designed to help foster families is making an impact in Pima County.
  • Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert
  • Department of Child Safety spokesman Doug Nick
  • Timothy Schmaltz, National Association of Social Workers’ Arizona chapter
  • Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Apache Junction
  • Rep. Chris Ackerley, R-Sahuarita
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