Phoenix, AZ (July 27, 2022)
The Arizona Department of Child Safety has overcome a once seemingly insurmountable challenge, safely reducing the number of children 0-17 years old in care to below 12,000; the lowest level since March 2012.
Currently, there are under 12,000 children 0-17 years old in care and around 1,000 young adults aged 18-20 in voluntary extended foster care; reflecting a 30% decrease from a peak of 18,657 kids in 2016.
“This transformation has been nothing short of extraordinary,” said Governor Doug Ducey. “Over the past eight years, Arizona went from near the bottom in child welfare to the top. I commend Director Mike Faust and all of the DCS employees, foster parents, community groups, and partner agencies who worked, and continue to work, tirelessly to support Arizona’s most vulnerable children and families.”
DCS Director Mike Faust attributed the department’s success to a commitment to the shared objective of serving families and children.
“Although this was one of the goals from the start, little did the team know how challenging it would be to reach this milestone,” said DCS Director Mike Faust. “DCS was deeply challenged a decade ago, and had it not been for the commitment of all those involved to make DCS a standalone agency, the resolve and steadfastness of Director Greg McKay from 2015-2019; the commitment of the thousands of employees and partners who devote their lives to protecting children; the loving support of kinship families; and the dedication of biological families to reunifying with their children, this would not have been possible.”
Eight years ago, the Arizona Department of Child Safety was plagued with overwhelming caseloads and skyrocketing children entering care; leading to poor results and lackluster service delivery.
Arizona’s children and families suffered because of it, and DCS employee morale dropped to an all-time low.
With the support of Governor Doug Ducey, First Lady Angela Ducey, the Arizona Legislature, and others, DCS blended good social work practice, quality improvement efforts, proven business practices, and continuous improvement techniques to bring about reform.
The transformation has been stunning.
In addition to lowering the number of children in care, other notable DCS improvements during this time include:
- Reduced hold times at the child abuse hotline, 1-888-SOS-CHILD.
- Eliminated the backlog of over 16,000 inactive cases.
- Reduced the number of open reports to investigate from 33,245 (8 months’ worth of reports) to a manageable, current load of less than 10,000.
- Revised our safety assessment model and policies; and began training our employees and system partners on them in February 2018.
- Implemented Court Authorized Removal process in July 2018 which requires our employees to seek a court order before removing a child, except in exigent circumstances.
- Developed and implemented a supervisory coaching program to reinforce quality of practice starting in 2019.
- Overhauled our IT infrastructure to launch a mobile app that lessened the time our employees spent on onerous paperwork so they could dedicate more time to working with children and families.
- Replaced the 25-year-old data management system in February 2021.
- Increased the number of young adults from 700 to 1200 who participate in our voluntary extended foster care program.
- Partnered with Grand Canyon University to develop a full-ride scholarship for foster youth.
- Became the first child welfare agency in the nation to integrate behavioral health and physical health with a plan managed by the Department.
Progress does not mean perfect, though. None of this would have been possible without the help of our supporting nonprofits, contracted partners, kinship families, and licensed foster parents. Though the number of children in care has gone down, so has our number of licensed foster homes available for children who need a nurturing family setting.
“We are thankful for our system partners, the providers and non-profit organizations who serve along with us and most notably the community partners who remain committed to improving Arizona’s Child Protection system,” Faust said. “For all the positives, the work is never complete. The Department remains committed to working alongside Community Leaders to prevent children from needing protection and partnering together to best serve children and their families when intervention is necessary.”
For more information or to get started on your fostering journey, visit AZDCS.gov.