Arizona Department Celebrates Decade Low in Children Entering the Foster Care System

Mike Faust, director of the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS), recently announced that there were under 12,000 children between the age of zero and 17 in the foster care system, the lowest the department has seen since 2012.

“Although this was one of the goals from the start, little did the team know how challenging it would be to reach this milestone,” Faust said in a press release. “DCS was deeply challenged a decade ago, and had it not been for the commitment of all those involved to make DCS a standalone agency, the resolve and steadfastness of Director Greg McKay from 2015-2019; the commitment of the thousands of employees and partners who devote their lives to protecting children; the loving support of kinship families; and the dedication of biological families to reunifying with their children, this would not have been possible.”

Faust shared that Arizona children and families previously suffered under the DCS, which was overwhelmed by cases and an amassing report backlog. Yet, he said support from Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and some solid business practices and improvements led to their success.

Other improvements at the DCS included reducing the hold times at the child abuse hotline, eliminating the backlog of over 16,000 inactive cases, IT updates to give staff more time with children and less time with paperwork, and a partnership with Grand Canyon University to develop a full-ride scholarship for foster kids, among other changes.

“This transformation has been nothing short of extraordinary,” Ducey said. “Over the past eight years, Arizona went from near the bottom in child welfare to the top.”

While Faust celebrated the achievement, he also said the work was not done. As the number of children in the system decreases, so does the available number of licensed foster homes.

Darren DaRonco, Public Information Officer for the DCS, told The Arizona Sun Times that the number of intakes remained under 12,000 through July. He also shared that Arizonans could help the foster system through donations which can receive a foster tax credit, becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or mentoring children in the system.

In an interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM, Faust shared how bad the foster system was in Arizona. From 2004 to 2014, the foster care population grew by 95 percent, making it the worst in the country. By 2015, there were 19,044 kids in the system, and workers were stretched thin as the monthly intake at the DCS grew to over a thousand in 2016. More children entered the system than left each day, and foster parents and kinship caregivers could not keep up with the demand. Yet, the monthly intake began to slow in 2017, and currently, the DCS averages 600 per month. Now, Faust shared the department will focus on preventive work in the community.

To become a foster parent in Arizona, individuals must meet a minimum age requirement of 21, own or rent a home or apartment, pass a criminal background check, and be legal residents of the United States.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].




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