Lawmakers began a special session this afternoon focused on child welfare. But, as Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports, those who want to do more now to prevent abuse and neglect in the first place are going to have to wait.
The legislation to create a new Department of Child Safety does require some focus on prevention. But, much of the upfront cash is being used to deal with a backlog of nearly 15,000 existing cases. There’s only $4 million in the $60 million package for subsidized child care for low-income parents — not nearly enough to meet demand. Rep. Kate Brophy McGee said there is a need to deal with the cases already in the system. But, she said more money for investigations is not the long-term answer.
“We’re operating at the wrong end of the spectrum. We need to move it back to the front door of the Department of Child Safety instead of all the way at the back end where you’ve got children out homes and courts and families torn apart,” she said.
And, Rep. Ethan Orr said he hopes to convince colleagues prevention actually makes more fiscal sense.
“If you can hold that family together, your cost is about $5,000. If we have to remove the child, our cost is about $50,000. So it’s much more incentive to provide for the family and hold the family unit together,” he said.
Orr also said subsidized child care means parents can go to work — reducing the need for welfare and other government subsidies.