The recent deep cuts to the Department of Economic Security are having a significant impact on vulnerable children and families across our state. The damage will not be easily undone. Without a thoughtful and far-reaching analysis of what these immediate budget cuts will do, we are in danger of eliminating effective systems that have been put into place over the last 30-40 years.
In one instance, the reduction and elimination of "in home services" has resulted in 7,000 children who have been receiving services in their own homes and in their own communities, no longer having that support. Many will be in danger of moving out of their homes and into the foster care system, which is already overwhelmed with more than 10,000 children.
The state recently implemented budget cuts reducing payments to foster parents by 20% and cutting the foster care allowances by 50% for such items as clothing.
These kinds of cuts are not sustainable. Arizona's Children Association has survived and moved through very difficult times. This is one of the most difficult times of them all. We are seeing the dismantling of the child welfare system as we have known it and supported it over these many years in Arizona. We will eventually pay for all of these funding cuts in ways that will ultimately be far more expensive than the resources now required.
As a member of the board of directors of the Child Welfare League of America, I also have an opportunity to look across the country and see how different states are coping with this severe economic downturn. Not every state is slashing away at vulnerable children and families. More prudent efforts are ones that will allow us to continue to move forward in protecting our most vulnerable populations in ways that will prevent the kind of catastrophe that appears to be ahead of us.
Fred J. Chaffee, M.A., M.S.W.
President & Chief Executive Officer, Arizona's Children Association