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New CPS workers will help, but not fix, overwhelming need

At the end of January, Governor Jan Brewer authorized emergency funding for 50 new Child Protective Services workers. The 31 new case workers and 19 support staff have been hired, according to the Arizona Department of Economic Safety, which oversees CPS. The new employees will complete a six-month training program before they’re put into the field.

Governor Brewer’s proposed budget also calls for funding an additional 150 CPS workers starting in July.

“We needed to have this new cadre of workers, all 200, quite frankly just to keep up with the increases we have seen,” said DES Director Clarence Carter.

Record increases in calls to the agency’s child abuse and neglect tip line and a spike in kids in the foster care system have left caseworkers carrying twice as many cases they should be.

Dana Naimark of Children’s Action Alliance says economic stresses during the recession were compounded by cuts to services over the last few years.

“We’ve cut back on assistance for childcare, we’ve cut back on substance abuse treatment, we’ve cut back on cash assistance,” Naimark said. “And that’s been a really dangerous combination. And it’s time to rebuild some basic prevention and supports for families, so fewer families go into these horrible crises that then require Child Protective Services or foster care.”

Naimark applauds the governor’s proposed additional funds to help CPS keep up with increasing need, but says the budget plan does not do enough to improve the prevention of child abuse and neglect.