Keeping Children Safe And Families Together

Governor's Office

February 16, 2017

Improving the lives of children and families is an effort that needs attention every day of the week.

On Monday, Governor Ducey met with Arizona Grandparents Ambassadors, who came to the capitol to represent kinship caregivers.

On Tuesday, Tara Montgomery, an Arizona resident, wrote an op-ed at The Washington Post highlight her inspirational experience fostering and adopting in our state.

And, on Wednesday, Governor Ducey announced that we’re expanding the successful CarePortal to Maricopa County to help keep more of our vulnerable families together.

Today, we want to share of few details about our ongoing efforts to make Arizona a better place for children and families. Here’s what we’ve been working on --

Making Resources Available To Encourage Foster Care And Adoption

Governor Ducey’s Executive Budget For Fiscal Year 2018, Released In January 2017, Recommends:

  • $13.2 million in new funding for the child welfare system, including:
  • $8 million for support services like counseling, child care, parent aides, and supervised visits, to be provided this year
  • $4.2 million in additional adoption and permanency subsidies
  • $1 million to increase support for kinship caregivers, like aunts, uncles and grandparents who step up to the plate and take in their extended family members
  • Additionally, the governor's Executive Budget recommends $10.8 million to fund the next step in replacing Arizona’s child welfare data system, a project that will significantly increase the time caseworkers can spend focused on children and families in the field where it counts most

In January 2017, Governor Ducey Recommended Investing In A “Grandmother Stipend” To Ensure That Individuals Who Step Up To The Plate To Take Care Of Their Extended Family Members Are Recognized And Rewarded. “Governor Ducey announced during his 2017 State of the State address that we’ll be looking at new ways to support grandparents and other extended family members who raise younger relatives as their own. One of those ways: providing a stipend to family members who make that sacrifice[.]” (“Recognizing And Rewarding Kinship Care,” Office Of The Arizona Governor, 01/31/17)

The Governor’s Newest Executive Budget Makes Targeted Investments To Make The Grandmother Stipend A Reality. (Fiscal Year 2018 Executive Budget, Office Of The Arizona Governor, January 2017)

In May 2016, Arizona Passed Legislation To Eliminate The “Grandmother Penalty,” Which Prohibited Some Grandparents From Receiving Assistance When They Become Caretakers For Their Grandchildren. The legislation eliminates caps on TANF assistance to ensure that extended family members have the resources they need to take care of their loved ones through kinship care rather than sending them to foster care. (House Bill 2452, Arizona State Legislature, Signed 05/11/16)

GOVERNOR DUCEY: “We Should Be Making It Easier—Not Harder—For Relatives To Step In And Care For A Child When A Parent Has Failed To Properly Do So.” GOVERNOR DUCEY: “We should be making it easier—not harder—for relatives to step in and care for a child when a parent has failed to properly do so. Removing the Grandmother Penalty ensures that kids are not punished for the failings of their parents, and that relatives have the resources they need to take on the role of caretaker. A grandparent should never be forced to choose between taking in the child they love and turning them over to the state.” (“Governor Doug Ducey Signs Legislation To Protect Foster Children And Eliminate The Grandmother Penalty,” Office Of The Arizona Governor, 05/11/16)

In May 2016, Arizona Passed Legislation Increasing The Amount Of Money Taxpayers Can Claim As A Tax Credit For Charitable Contributions To Foster Care Organizations. The legislation increases the tax credit that taxpayers can claim from charitable contributions to qualifying foster care organizations from $400 to $500 for individuals and from $800 to $1,000 for married couples. (Senate Bill 1216, Arizona State Legislature, Signed 05/06/16)

A Few Weeks Later, Arizona Passed Legislation Allowing These Charitable Tax Credits To Be Applied To The Current Or Preceding Taxable Year If They Are Made On Or Before April 15th. Taxpayers are often more aware of opportunities for tax relief during “tax season” from January to April. By allowing taxpayers to make charitable contributions until April 15th retroactive to the prior tax year, the legislation will encourage additional contributions to charitable organizations and help Arizona foster children. (Senate Bill 1217, Arizona State Legislature, Signed 05/17/16)

In April 2015, Arizona Passed Legislation Expanding The Types Of Charitable Organizations That Are Eligible For The Foster Care Tax Credit. The legislation allows individuals and families to receive a tax credit for donating to programs that assist young people who age out of the foster care system and are participating in transitional independent living programs. (Senate Bill 1103, Arizona State Legislature, Signed 04/10/15)

Bringing The CarePortal To Maricopa County

In 2015, The Arizona Department Of Child Safety Launched The CarePortal In Pima County. “The Department of Child Safety today launched the CarePortal from the First Assembly of God Church in Tucson. The CarePortal will help DCS staff link multiple churches to needy children and families involved in the child welfare system. . . . Now, DCS staff will formally request assistance for a child or family in need. The CarePortal will electronically distribute the request to multiple churches engaged in Pima County. When a church offers the remedy, they are immediately connected back to DCS where together, they deliver the solution.” (“DCS Director Greg McKay Commends DCS Staff, Church Leaders, And The CarePortal For Bringing Hope To Arizona Children And Foster Families,” Arizona Department Of Child Safety, 12/03/15)

The CarePortal Is An Online Communications Network That “Allows DCS Caseworkers Who Know Of A Specific Need Of A Child Or Family To Submit That Request Via Email To Nearby Churches Enrolled In The System.” “Called The Care Portal, the online tool allows DCS caseworkers who know of a specific need of a child or family to submit that request via email to nearby churches enrolled in the system. The churches then have the option to fill that request based on the resources of the congregation.” (Johanna Willett, “Technology Connects Churches To Child Welfare Needs,” Arizona Daily Star, 10/05/15)

In March 2016, ABC 15 Reported That The Partnership “Is Working So Well In Tucson, DCS Would Like To Expand.” “Through CarePortal, churches have donated everything from beds, to cars, to plumbing services. They have received more than 200 requests for help since the program launched in December, and it takes two weeks to fill a typical request. The church-state partnership is working so well in Tucson, DCS would like to expand.” (Melissa Blasius, “CarePortal Pilot Program Connects Churches With Families In The Child Welfare System,” ABC 15, 03/18/16)

In February 2017, DCS Officially Expanded The CarePortal To Maricopa County. “Governor Doug Ducey is announcing the official launch of CarePortal in Maricopa County to help keep more vulnerable Arizona families together. . . . This program is one of many actions Arizona has taken to increase foster care and adoption in Arizona. But the CarePortal is about more than that, too. Requests can be anything from money for baby formula to a crib for a newborn baby to sleep in.” (“CarePortal Expands To Maricopa County,” Office Of The Arizona Governor, 02/15/17)

Improving Our Adoption And Foster Care Programs

In August 2016, DCS Won Federal Approval For An Innovative New Program To Help Children Living In Group Homes Re-Connect With People Who Have Been Important In Their Lives. “The Department of Child Safety is pleased to announce a ground-breaking project called ‘Fostering Sustainable Connections.’ This program will help children living in group homes and shelters to connect or reconnect to people who have been important in their lives, giving them the supportive relationships that will help them to thrive. For many children, the ‘Fostering Sustainable Connections’ program will identify a family to care for the child, thereby reducing the number of children living in group homes and shelters.” (“Department Of Child Safety Wins Federal Approval for Innovative Intervention Program To Help Children In Group Homes And Shelters,” Arizona Department Of Child Safety, 08/25/16)

In May 2016, Arizona Passed Legislation To Decrease The Time To Permanency When A Child Is Being Adopted By His Or Her Foster Family Or Out Of State Relatives. The legislation expands the list of people who are excluded from going through pre-adoption certification to include additional relative types and certain licensed foster parents, which is expected to reduce the time for these adoptions by up to six months. The legislation also allows additional flexibility for foster parent training. (House Bill 2260, Arizona State Legislature, Signed 05/11/16)

The Legislation Will Also Improve Foster Care Policies By Continuing The State Foster Card Review Board For Eight Years, Which Provides Critical Oversight Of Our Adoption System. (House Bill 2260, Arizona State Legislature, Signed 05/11/16)

GOVERNOR DUCEY: “These Reforms . . . Reduce Time To Permanency To Ensure That When A Child Finds A Loving Home, They Have The Opportunity To Stay There.” GOVERNOR DUCEY: “I’ve been clear that we must do all that we can to see more adoptions, foster parents, and more permanency for our most vulnerable children. These reforms, championed by Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, make significant improvements to foster care training and licensing, and reduce time to permanency to ensure that when a child finds a loving home, they have the opportunity to stay there.” (“Governor Ducey Signs Legislation To Protect Foster Children And Eliminate The Grandmother Penalty,” Office Of The Arizona Governor, 05/11/16)

In May 2016, Arizona Passed Legislation Requiring DCS To Enter Into At Least One Contract With A Private Contractor To Help Administer Backlog Cases. The legislation also increases accountability by requiring DCS to report the status of all backlog cases to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee within thirty days after each calendar quarter. (House Bill 2270, Arizona State Legislature, Signed 05/17/16)

In April 2015, Arizona Passed Legislation To Ensure The Proper Preservation Of Documents Related To Adoptions. The legislation requires that adoption agencies that cease operations transfer all case documents related to adoptions to DCS or another adoption agency in the state and to provide notice of where the documents are located to affected adoptive parents. These procedures protect children, ensure the integrity of the adoption system, and increase accountability for all parties involved. (House Bill 2099, Arizona State Legislature, Signed 04/10/15)

Expanding Foster Children’s Access To Education And Health Care

In May 2016, Arizona Passed Legislation To Expand Education Opportunities For School-Age Foster Children By Giving Them Enrollment Preference At The Public School Of Their Choice. (House Bill 2665, Arizona State Legislature, Signed 05/13/16)

Governor Ducey Outlined The Idea Of An Educational “Fast Pass” A Few Months Earlier During His 2016 State Of The State Address. GOVERNOR DUCEY: “If we want to see more foster and adoptive families, let’s give them an incentive, a ‘fast pass’ to the front of the line of our best public schools. This will ensure vulnerable children an opportunity at a great education—and bring more good people to take on the noble cause of fostering a child.” (“Watch: State Of The State Address,” Office Of The Arizona Governor, 01/11/16)

The Legislation Also Appropriates Up To $1.5 Million To Expand The Statewide FosterEd Program, A Public-Philanthropic Partnership That Helps Families Navigate The Educational System After They Have Made Their Choice. “An initiative of the National Center for Youth Law, the FosterEd program is based on a model in which every foster child is assigned an Education Champion who can support the student's long-term education success, along with an education team of adults who develop and support an individualized education plan based on the student's academic strengths and needs.” (House Bill 2665, Arizona State Legislature, Signed 05/13/16; “Governor Doug Ducey Signs Legislation To Expand Educational Opportunity For Foster Kids,” Governor’s Office Of Education, 05/13/16)

In March 2016, Arizona Unanimously Passed Legislation To Ensure That Foster Families Have Easier Access To Quality And Timely Behavioral Health Care. (House Bill 2442, Arizona State Legislature, Signed 03/24/16)

The Legislation—Nicknamed “Jacob’s Law”—Was Written In Response To Three Foster Mothers’ “Pleas For A Quicker And Smoother Path To Trauma And Other Services For Children In Foster Care.” (Mary Jo Pitzl, “Fed Up With Excuses, Red Tape 3 Arizona Foster Moms Forge New Path At Capitol,” Arizona Republic, 03/14/16)

GOVERNOR DUCEY: “Foster Children And Families Face Enough Stresses And Challenges As It Is—Getting Urgent And Adequate Behavioral Health Treatment Should Not Be One Of Them.” GOVERNOR DUCEY: “There are nearly 19,000 kids in Arizona’s foster care system – many who have suffered unthinkable abuse, trauma and neglect at the hands of the people who are supposed to love and protect them above all else. . . . Foster children and families face enough stresses and challenges as it is – getting urgent and adequate behavioral health treatment should not be one of them. If there were ever a time to do away with red tape and bureaucracy, it’s now.” (“Governor Ducey Signs Crucial Legislation For Arizona Foster Children,” Office Of The Arizona Governor, 03/24/16)

We’ve Seen Numerous Adoption And Foster Care Achievements

We’ve Seen Numerous Adoption And Foster Care Achievements Since January 2015, With DCS Having Safely Reduced The Backlog Of Inactive Cases From More Than 16,000 To Less Than 2,000 Today. (“DCS Agency Progress,” Arizona Department Of Child Safety, Accessed 02/16/17)

The Total Number Of Open Reports Has Also Been Reduced From More Than 33,000 To Less Than 8,000 Today. (“DCS Agency Progress,” Arizona Department Of Child Safety, Accessed 02/16/17)

For The First Time In Seven Years, More Children Are Leaving State Care Than Are Entering It. Based on historical growth trend data, the number of children in state care was expected to be more than 20,000—but, as of December 2016, due in part to the implementation of the “SAFE Arizona” initiative, that number is now under 17,500. (“DCS Agency Progress,” Arizona Department Of Child Safety, Accessed 02/16/17)

From January 2016 To January 2017, The Amount Of Time It Took To Place Children In Maricopa County Decreased From 17.8 Hours To 7.5 Hours. Another timeline: From September 2015 to September 2016, the amount of time it took to place children in Maricopa Country decreased from 43.8 hours to 11.5 hours. (“DCS Agency Progress,” Arizona Department Of Child Safety, Accessed 02/16/17)

From 2015 To 2016, DCS Saw A 9 Percent Increase In Children Achieving Permanency—Reunification And Adoption—Over The Prior Year. (Arizona Department Of Child Safety, Accessed 02/16/17)