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Numbers Remain High For Child Abuse, Neglect In Arizona

Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - 3:39pm
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(Photo by Lauren Gilger - KJZZ)
Thom Reilly

Child abuse and the rising number of Arizona kids in foster care have been in the headlines in our state for years now. That number is now as high as 18,000 children in Arizona’s child-welfare system.

But most of those children — about 70 percent of them — are removed from their homes because of neglect, not abuse.

So, what’s behind this rise, and are other states seeing this kind of increase?

For the most part, no. Thom Reilly, director of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU, said that most states are seeing a decline in the number of kids entering foster care. But the numbers here in Arizona remain high.

What’s behind this — is it resources? Is it poverty?

“The numbers have been rising at a pretty significant rate, and part of that is everything from a lack of child care to a lack of some basic necessities is probably contributing to the number of kids coming in the system," Reilly said. "The other factor that not only impacts Arizona but in many cases nationally is the role of substance use. A good portion of the number of kids that come in there, their families are dealing with some type of substance issue. So, the availability of programs to help addiction and help address those issues also is a complicating factor."

To combat this, the Morrison Institute is actually working with the Department of Child Safety on a three-year project to look at how other states are successfully preventing this. They released their first paper on it last month and soon, they’re bringing together state agencies, child advocates and lawmakers — people who can actually make changes — to look at their options.

Reilly also said that states that have put some money into prevention efforts have really seen the payoff, because a growing foster-care system is not cheap.

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