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CPS blows through budget

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

CPS blows through budget

CREATED Dec 12, 2012

Reporter: Maggie Vespa

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Where there is smoke, there is fire.

When it comes to state government, where there is spending, there is a budget to back it up.
 
But when the money runs out, instead of asking for more, all that's left is cuts to crucial services that could keep thousands of Arizona kids from their families indefinitely.
 
That's the case concerning big cutbacks headed for Arizona's Child Protective Services program.
 
Now, as the call to recalculate those numbers grows louder and louder, state lawmakers say the solution should be simple.
 
Wednesday afternoon, dozens demonstrated for what they call "a right at risk".
 
"The courts, the judges have decided that visitation is a right," said Moira O'Connor, an employee at Aviva Children's Services.
 
Meantime, Arizona lawmakers continued an unsuccessful search.
 
"It's been very frustrating for me that I have still not been successful in getting answers," said State Senator Steve Farley (D-Tucson).
 
"I have requested a call and have not heard from CPS," said State Senator Linda Lopez (D-Tucson).
 
Last week 9OYS did hear back from CPS after child services groups like Aviva, contracted to
supervise visits between parents and their kids, were told to stop.
 
They were told CPS just did not have the money anymore.
 
Here's what CPS had to say.
 
"Nothing has changed here," said Stacy Reinstein, Deputy Director of the Child Welfare Program.  "We are just closely monitoring and assessing when those services are needed so families served will benefit from those services." 
 
CPS also denied cuts to its own funding.
 
Documents obtained since by the Arizona Republic show that is true.  The agency did not have its funding cut.
 
Instead, it has simply run out of money, forcing the families it serves to pay the price in lost visitation hours and more time in foster care for the kids.
 
The reason?  A 25% increase this year in the number of kids entering the state's system, which contributes to a staggering budget shortfall, of $35 million.
 
Staggering, but solveable.
 
"What I'm asking is why haven't they asked us for the money?" said Sen. Farley.
 
Wednesday night via phone, 9OYS tracked down several state lawmakers, newly clued in to these numbers, who say CPS should have fessed up.
 
"They should have come to the legislature for an emergency appropriation because we have $450 million just sitting there in a 'rainy day fund' right now," said Farley.
 
"They were going to just live within their means and weren't going to request any more money.  That's just not acceptable," said State Representative Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix).
 
It's a mistep that Lopez says may end up costing the state in court.
 
"We're going to be, if not already, out of compliance with the requirements that are put on our child protective services in terms of meeting the needs of the kids and families and supporting the needs of reunification," she said.
 
But such a legal battle would leave kids and their families in limbo.
 
Lawmakers say, no.  Action needs to be taken now.
 
"A lot of these kids have been abandoned by adults their entire lives, and then for the state to abandon them as well, and force volunteers who have come into their lives to mentor these kids to abandon them also... It's just a horrible situation," said Farley.  "It does not represent who we ought to be as a state."
 
All three lawmakers say they've been reaching out to CPS, Arizona's Department of Economic Security, even the Governor's office for weeks, with no luck.
 
Wednesday Representative Chad Campbell even issued a statement to CPS director Clarence Carter demanding to know why he hasn't asked for state aid.
 
9OYS also reached out to all parties involved.  We also received no response.