“[It’s] Imploding,” Says Arizona Child Welfare Worker of State’s Overloaded Foster Care System

A continuing decline in Arizona foster homes combined with a record number of children in care has those in charge of the state’s Child Protective Services (CPS) declaring a state of “crisis.” Nearly 1,900 of the state’s 13,500 foster children are living in emergency shelters and group homes because there are no available foster homes. The Arizona Republic reports:

“They’re going into a place where they’re kind of on their own,” said Deborah Daro, senior research fellow at the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall. “It’s like a foreign country for some of these kids.”

The number of foster homes in Arizona has declined by 12 percent since 2009, while the number of foster children has skyrocketed by 30 percent. According to experts working on the ground, the situation is unprecedented and needs to change:

“I’ve been here 27 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. Not even close,” said Terry Hines, chief operating officer for Mesa’s East Valley Child Crisis Center, one of just two Valley shelters that cares for infants and toddlers. “We’re just building this huge system instead of working on keeping kids out.”

Workers inside the system are struggling to recruit more foster homes and admit the situation is dire:

“We need kids in beds, out of a shelter, out of a CPS office,” said Marcia Reck, director of Arizona Adoption and Foster Care in Mesa, which recruits and trains foster and adoptive parents. “The system is imploding. They’re desperate.”

The sense of desperation is even being echoed by Deidre Calcoate, who’s in charge of adoption and foster care in Arizona’s CPS:

“We’re not going to always be in crisis. But right now we are.”

A push is underway to recruit more foster homes, however some experts have questioned whether the system can take on such a task:

“If you recruit all these homes, do they really have the capacity to license and train all these people?” said Beth Rosenberg of the Children’s Action Alliance. “And then support families once kids are in their homes?”

State Senator Landrum Taylor knows firsthand the problems facing CPS after successfully fighting to adopt the child she and her husband fostered. She worries about the families facing similar problems right now:

“My big, big concern are the number or foster families who are just throwing their hands in the air because they don’t feel like they have the support,” Taylor said. “I feel for the kids, because in the end, that’s who’s going to suffer.”