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Child advocacy groups call for more funding

PHOENIX – A budget making its way through the state legislature has some child advocacy groups concerned.

The state Senate passed a budget proposal last week that continues the $80 million in funding cuts to child care services that were set in place in 2009.

Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance, said since November — when the Arizona’s Child Protective Services announced that 6,500 reports of child abuse had been overlooked — there has been a lot of talk about the state’s dysfunctional child care system but more needs to be done.

“We’ve heard a lot of talk since then about child safety, we’ve heard a lot of announcements about what will be fixed and what will be changed,” Naimark said. “Now is the time for action.”

Naimark said child care in Arizona is in a crisis and that there is a current backlog of more than 11,000 cases that have not been handled in two months or more.

“Our foster care population has grown 49 percent in the last five years,” she added. “We have more than 15,500 children living in foster care. They would fill every single seat in Arizona’s Veteran Memorial Coliseum with more standing and sitting in the aisles… (that’s) unacceptable.”

She also said the time it takes for CPS to complete an investigation has quadrupled in the last five years.

Naimark and representatives from Southwest Human Development, a nonprofit organization specializing in early childhood development, met in the State Capitol Museum to call for the legislation to add at least an additional $10 million in the budget to child care services.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the Arizona House is nearing a budget deal that has “a small increase in child welfare spending.”