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Arizona DCS Closes Emergency Placement Center For Children

A central Phoenix emergency center for children removed from their homes is officially closed. The placement center run by Arizona’s child welfare agency and a nonprofit was open less than a year and served more than 2,000 kids.

The Arizona Department of Child Safety and the nonprofit Childhelp opened the Emergency Placement center in June.  

Agency spokesman Doug Nick said this was a pilot project and since then, the agency has hired more than 20 additional people to get children placed.

“We’ve significantly bolstered the number of people that are dedicated to placing these children,” Nick said. “Either in kinship, a foster home or an emergency bed.”

Nick said on average between nine and 11 children were at the shelter each day between July and December 2015.

Marleny Nesshengol-Hopp said she volunteered on an almost weekly basis between June and November. She said some days there were as many as 40 kids in the center. She said she was heartbroken to find out public volunteers were no longer needed through an email earlier this month.

“Almost every shift I would leave, I would get a call or at least that weekend, almost every Saturday or Sunday I would get a call asking me to come back in and volunteer more time due to the short amount of volunteers they had on staff,” Nesshengel-Hopp said.   

She said when she was volunteering she remembers the center was reasonably clean and children were seemingly placed rather quickly.

In a DCS email to public volunteers obtained by KJZZ, the agency said it no longer needed regularly scheduled volunteer services at the Placement Department because of increased staffing.

According to DCS, the kids who would have been in the center awaiting placement will now be put in DCS offices fitted with showers, beds and kitchenettes.  

Alexandra Olgin joined KJZZ as a reporter in 2013.