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With Foster Care Numbers Rising, Child Safety Citizen Panels Convene In Valley

Published: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 6:38pm
Updated: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 7:28pm
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(Photo courtesy of National Citizen Review Panel)
The National Citizen Review Panel convenes this week in the Valley.

There are more than 19,000 children in foster care in Arizona. It’s a number that keeps growing in our state, despite the money and resources being poured into the state’s child welfare system. 

So, why do these numbers keep going up? And is Arizona doing enough about it? A national conference is kicking off Monday in the Valley to tackle issues surrounding the child welfare system.  

The National Citizen Review Panel is bringing 150 people to the Valley to take a closer look at issues and challenges surrounding the child-welfare system and try to find some solutions.

The conference is being hosted by Arizona State University’s Center for Child Well-Being and many of the people attending are volunteers who give their time serving on citizen review panels charged with evaluating child welfare systems in states across the country.

There are three citizen review panels in Arizona, in different regions of the state. They meet four times a year, evaluate the state’s child welfare system, and issue a report on it every year that goes to the legislature and the state Department of Child Safety, according to Judy Krysik, Associate Professor at ASU’s School of Social Work and director of the Center for Child Well-Being.

“We have people from all walks of life. We have doctors, nurses, teachers, foster parents, youth who have been in care themselves, who have been in foster care,” she said. “Police members, former police members, retired people. So, it’s really a very broad perspective that we’re looking for.”

She said these citizen panels are an important way to make sure the state is held accountable for all of the money we put into the child welfare system. And, it’s actually a requirement that we have these citizen panels, according to Krysik. 

“The federal government actually legislates that states, in order to receive, their funding, have to have citizen involvement in child welfare,” she said. 

Arizona’s child welfare system, in particular, has faced challenge after challenge in recent years, and Krysik said the fact that the number of children in foster care continues to rise is a huge challenge. 

“We know that is not good. We care about the safety of children, we recognize the child welfare system as being very important to children’s safety, but 19,000 children in care would fill the whole Coyotes stadium,” she said. “And the problem, a big problem with that is the poor outcomes that that sets up for children over their lifetime.”

Krysik said children who have been in child welfare have poorer outcomes in terms of what kind of job they can get as adults and whether or not they attend college. If they do go, they’re more likely to drop out, she said. 

But, she said she is still optimistic about the future of child welfare in Arizona and that there are many programs that work. But, it will take much more than the Department of Child Safety to do it. 

“We need to look at what exists outside of the Department of Child Safety, because if all we have is the Department of Child Safety, that’s not going to work,” she said. “It takes all of these citizens and all of these agencies to work together in a coordinated way to serve children and families so they won’t come into the child welfare system.”

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