Recent media coverage of children being removed from their homes as a result of parental drug usage illustrates the issue of protecting children while respecting parental rights. It is a scenario that the Department of Child Safety (DCS) faces on a daily basis. According to Director Gregory McKay,
“We take our responsibility to protect children very seriously. We need to delicately balance the rights of parents with the rights of child victims, and in the end, we must protect all people by exercising due diligence and good faith."
DCS is dedicated to achieving safety, well-being, and permanency for children, youth, and families. The best solution for protecting Arizona’s children and respecting parental rights is to prevent child neglect and abuse from occurring. To that end, DCS has made significant effort to support parents, equipping them with the training and support they need to succeed.
The Healthy Families Arizona prevention initiative is one of those efforts. It is a very effective educational program focused on helping expectant and new parents get their children off to a healthy start. In 2015, the program served almost 5,000 exceptional need families in Arizona with extremely positive results.
Out of the almost 5,000 families enrolled in the program, 96% had no substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect. Additionally, 90% of children received timely developmental screens in their first year of life and 89% of all children enrolled were immunized. Of equal importance is that 95% of families enrolled received substance abuse screening, and only 5.6% reported substance abuse problems in the following year.
The Healthy Families Arizona program continues to expand in 2016, as are other DCS efforts to engage the community in preventing child neglect and abuse. National Child Abuse Prevention month launches Friday April 1st, and the Department of Child Safety will be providing education and resources to help keep Arizona’s children safe and families strong.
For more information about Healthy Families Arizona, go to: https://dcs.az.gov/services/prevention-and-family-support/healthy-families-arizona