Strengthening Families Means Empowering Adoptions

Governor's Office

November 18, 2016

What better way to unite Americans than working together to ensure that children across Arizona have loving families, warm homes, and a chance to build a better life?

That’s what National Adoption Day—tomorrow, November 19, 2016—is all about.

It’s about acknowledging that 18,061 children under state care is 18,061 too many. Each one is a child who needs a safe and loving forever home, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to safely reduce the number of children in foster care through prevention, kinship care, re-unification when possible, and adoption.

Over the past two years, we have:

  • Invested tens of millions of new dollars in adoption and foster care programs
  • Provided tax relief to individuals and families who contribute to charitable foster care organizations when they can
  • Empowered family members with the resources they need to become caretakers
  • Passed “Jacob’s law” to give foster families easier access to behavioral health care
  • Expanded educational opportunities for foster children by giving them enrollment preference at the public school of their choice

These efforts have yielded significant results for our families. For instance, fewer children have entered the Arizona foster system than exited for the last eight out of ten months, successfully reversing a seven-year trend of year-over-year growth. And, in less than two years, the Arizona Department of Child Safety safely reduced the backlog of inactive cases from more than 16,000 to less than 4,000 today.

There’s certainly more work to be done, and we’re firmly committed to that work. At the same time, we’re proud of the efforts our state has spearheaded to strengthen families, encourage adoption, and improve the services we provide to children in need.

Giving Our Adoption And Foster Care Systems The Resources They Need To Succeed In The 21st Century

This Year Arizona Has Made Significant Fund Increases To The Child Welfare System, Including:

  • $53 million for child welfare services, which includes:
  • $10.2 million to fully fund foster care placements and independent living subsidies to assist children aging out of the foster care system
  • $6.1 million in additional adoption and permanency subsidies
  • $5 million to increase the number of attorneys and $3 million to courts that handle child welfare cases to decrease the time to permanency for children in the foster care system
  • $19.5 million for prevention and support services including counseling, child care, parent aides, and supervised visits
  • $12 million to improve DCS operations, assist field staff, and tackle the backlog of inactive cases

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)

One Year Later, Our State Passed Legislation To Increase The Amount Of Money Taxpayers Can Claim As A Tax Credit For 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)

We Also 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 May 2016, Arizona Passed Legislation To Eliminate The “Grandmother Penalty,” Which Prohibited Some Grandparents From Receiving Assistance To Help Them Step Up To The Plate And 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)

Making Sure Adoption And Foster Care Systems Work For Children And Families

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)

In Late 2015, DCS Launched The “CarePortal” In Pima County, An Online Tool That Integrates Faith-Based Organizations Into DCS’s Ongoing Efforts To Assist Families And Prevent Removals And Emphasizes The Important Role That Communities Play In Helping Children In Need. “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 “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)

ABC 15: “The Church-State 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)

Efforts Are Currently Underway To Continue Rolling Out The CarePortal In Maricopa County. (Arizona Department Of Child Safety, Accessed 11/18/16)

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 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)

Delivering Educational Excellence And Quality Health Care To Foster Children

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)

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)

We’ve Seen Numerous Adoption And Foster Care Achievements

In Less Than Two Years, DCS Has Safely Reduced The Backlog Of Inactive Cases From More Than 16,000 To Less Than 4,000 Today. (“DCS Agency Progress,” Arizona Department Of Child Safety, Accessed 11/18/16)

The Total Number Of Open Reports Has Also Been Reduced From More Than 33,000 To Less Than 12,000 Today. (“DCS Agency Progress,” Arizona Department Of Child Safety, Accessed 11/18/16)

DCS Has Begun To Reverse A Seven-Year Trend Of Year-Over-Year Growth And Is Now Reporting Fewer Children Having Entered The System Than Exited For The Last Eight Out Of Ten Months. Based on historical growth trend data, the number of children in state care was expected to be more than 20,000—but, as of August 2016, due in part to the implementation of the “SAFE Arizona” initiative, that number is now just over 18,000. (“DCS Agency Progress,” Arizona Department Of Child Safety, Accessed 11/18/16)

From September 2015 To September 2016, The Amount Of Time It Took To Place Children Decreased From 43.8 Hours To 11.5 Hours. (“DCS Agency Progress,” Arizona Department Of Child Safety, Accessed 11/18/16)

This Year, The Agency Also Achieved A 9 Percent Increase In Children Achieving Permanency—Reunification And Adoption—Over The Prior Year. (Arizona Department Of Child Safety, Accessed 11/18/16)