CPS parent-child visits to be restored soon
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Angry parents, disappointed kids, media pressure and politicians' outrage---they all figure into a mess at CPS the agency seems to be sorting out now.
It's too late to share Christmas, but there's fresh hope parents with kids in CPS custody will be able to have supervised visits soon.
What CPS calls a misunderstanding, led to a shutdown of agencies that oversaw the visits.
Now at least one agency says CPS is moving to get visits back on track in just a few days.
We know some parents have been able to have a few visits with CPS case workers supervising, but CPS workers are so overworked that didn't happen often enough.
CPS had used private agencies to supervise visits under contract---but would not send more money after a surge in troubled families forced those agencies to burn through their budgets.
That led to parents unable to visit their children, and agencies laying off workers they could no longer pay.
Now after almost a month of anger and anxiety the money may flow and visits may resume.
Workers at Aviva Children's Services turned in the baby seats they used to bring kids in CPS custody in for visits designed to help bring families back together.
When money for Aviva and agencies like it ran out, CPS would not send more.
That left workers laid off, and parents like Stella, who asked us not to use her real name, struggling to see their children.
Now CPS seems to be fixing the problem.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked "Stella": "If I could connect you with the director of DES right now, what would you say to him?"
"Stella": "I think that it's unfair. What they've done is take away time that we all looked forward to, to spend together, to get re-acquainted with each other, to just spend time together and that's all been taken away."
Early this month CPS told agencies when they ran through their budgets they would not get more money to supervise parent child visits---even though a surge in families in trouble was the reason those budgets ran out.
Aviva had to lay off 32 workers and stop the visits---even though court orders require them.
CPS says the cut-offs were a misunderstanding, and promised to help get the visits restored.
Now the private agencies are getting the paperwork to help that happen.
Aviva director Bob Heslinga says if CPS moves fast enough, he still has enough staff on hand to bring in about 35 families for visits as soon as next week and hopes to be able to get back to serving 135 families.
He says, "I hope they will deal with this expeditiously. These are children that have been waiting. This is now three weeks, in our instance, it's over three weeks since we suspended the visits."
Bob Heslinga recommends that parents check with their CPS caseworker as soon as possible to start the process of getting the visits restored.
It's not clear whether CPS will fund the private agencies in a way that will give them the ability to serve as many families as they did before.
Stella, the mom we talked to, says if she doesn't live up to visitation rules, she's in trouble. She wonders if CPS will face penalties for all the problems this month.