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As lawmakers talk budgets, child advocates call for better funding

Child welfare advocates went to the state capital Tuesday to urge lawmakers to increase funding for child safety services, citing a crisis in Child Protective Services and funding that has failed to keep pace with growing need.

Governor Jan Brewer included the increase in her budget proposal in January. Brewer’s proposal calls for an additional $77 million to fund child welfare agencies like Child Protective Services. It would also increase funds for a host of safety net programs. 

Dana Naimark of Children’s Action Alliance said it is the minimum the state needs to spend to keep kids safe.

“Any budget without any of these components means more children will wait too long for foster care,” Naimark told the crowd of advocates and reporters. “More investigations will remain open for months without a safe resolution, and 4,000 children will be kicked out of child care assistance.”

Naimark said the need for these services has grown dramatically as the tough economy has pinched families.

There has been a 33 percent increase in the number of CPS reports of abuse and neglect, and a 34 percent increase in the number of children in the foster care system since 2009. State funding has increased by just 1 percent in that time.

Of the CPS investigations opened in the second half of 2012, half  remain unresolved today.

“We are leaving children in danger,” Naimark said. “That is unacceptable, and it is something we can change with leadership from our lawmakers.”

The press conference comes as leaders in the House and Senate are meeting with the governor’s office for budget talks.

House Republican John Kavanagh will play a role in crafting the budget. He told KJZZ that adding CPS caseworkers and investigators is a priority, but he said he is not sure he will support funding all of the services in the governor’s proposal.