Number of Arizona kids in foster care has dropped over 8 years, DCS says

Sep 6, 2022, 4:35 AM | Updated: Sep 7, 2022, 9:11 am
(Facebook Photo/Arizona Department of Child Services)...
(Facebook Photo/Arizona Department of Child Services)
(Facebook Photo/Arizona Department of Child Services)

PHOENIX — Arizona was once the worst in nation when it came to the number of children entering the system, but over the past decade the department has lowered that number, officials said.

Michael Faust, director of the Arizona Department of Child Safety, told KTAR News 92.3 FM when Gov. Doug Ducey came into office the department had just become a stand alone agency.

“On top of that, we were really strapped with what was the fastest growing foster care population in the nation,” Faust said.

From 2004 to 2014 Arizona’s foster care population grew by about 95%, making it the worst in the country, according to the department.

Faust said in March 2015, there were 19,044 kids in the care of the state, including kids under 18 and over 18.

“In the calendar year of 2016, 1,077 kids per month on average entered foster care, so you had this large number of kids entering care, you had not enough kids transferring home safely, you had a strapped workforce,” Faust said.

He added that foster parents and kinship caregivers could not keep up with the demand because more kids were entering foster care each day than exiting.
“I think under Gov. Ducey’s leadership, and with the support of [former] Director [of the Department of Child Safety Greg] McKay, the team of professionals that worked in the department really started to work on meaningful systemic reform,” Faust said.

The department addressed these issues by reducing hold times for the child abuse hotline, eliminating the backlog of 16,000 inactive cases and reducing the number of open reports to investigate.

“There was a point in time where the department had 33,245 open reports to investigate. You’ve got about nine months backlog reports,” Faust said, noting that it took about 18 months to get through the backlog.

The department said starting in 2017, it began seeing fewer kids entering foster care, with on average of about 800 a month.

“Right now, we’re averaging just below 600 kids a month entering care, so about a 40% reduction of the number of kids entering care each month,” Faust said.

“That has coupled with our efforts to transition kids home safely to either their birth parents or permanency through adoption or guardianship.”

There are now fewer than 12,000 children up to age 17 in the system, the lowest level since March 2012, according to a press release from the department.

Faust tells KTAR News a lot of this work has been possible due to Gov. Ducey’s leadership and have worked to make sure the work that’s been done outlives past Ducey’s administration.

“We’ve really worked diligently with everything we do to make it not people based, but process based so that way it’s replicate-able,” Faust said.

According to Faust, the department will now focus on preventive work by doing a more effective job reaching out to the community.

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Number of Arizona kids in foster care has dropped over 8 years, DCS says