CPS can't prove how many troubled kids slept in state offices
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Children, taken from their homes for their own safety, but left with no immediate place to go.
Because of our state's foster care crisis, Arizona Child Protective Services is sometimes left with no other choice than to let them sleep in state offices.
Since 9 On Your Side found out this was happening, we've been asking questions---chief among them---how often does this happen? Now, an answer, sort of.
CPS has called for more foster parents but downplayed it's practice of keeping kids in offices when it can't find emergency foster space.
The agency said all along, it's rare to keep kids in offices. We asked them to back that up.
KGUN9 News used the Open Records Law to ask, how many kids, and how many nights. It took the state two weeks to answer---and the answer was---we don't know.
CPS says when it keeps kids in an office overnight it's because the child is in danger at home and there's no emergency foster space.
In late July, the CPS spokesperson told us that happens occasionally. The Governor's spokesperson said it happens infrequently.
That was far too vague. So we invoked the Arizona Open Records Law to ask how many kids, how many nights, and how many places.
It took two weeks to get a letter. It concedes the state doesn't know because it didn't keep track.
State Senator Frank Antenori says, "You can't solve the problem if you don't know what the problem is."
Senator Antenori and other lawmakers are interested in working to solve CPS problems in an upcoming legislative session.
"Not having numbers which you asked for, which I think is quite simple to ask for, how many kids, how often does this happen, what's the frequency and what's the impact of it, I can't see how difficult it would be to provide that data and info."
State Senator Linda Gray heads the Senate committee that oversees CPS. She sees putting kids in offices sometimes are a necessary stop-gap until more foster families are screened and trained.
"But we do need more foster parents who are willing to take on the challenge of giving care and love forever to a child who doesn't have a family."
The good news of the story is it has more people interested in becoming foster parents. But if you commit now, you may have four, maybe six months of training before you're ready to take in kids. So it pays to take that step now.
Beth Rosenberg of Children's Action Alliance echoes the call for more foster parents but hopes lawmakers will restore money for health and counseling services.
She says, "Prevention services of that nature and other family support services are really critical to help provide services to families and to prevent kids from coming into care in the first place."
CPS has a responsibility to keep track of kids so naturally we asked CPS to explain why they would not keep track of kids in CPS offices.
When we asked, we got a call from the man who handles open records requests. He had no control of whether records were kept on those office visits, so we still don't have that answer.