Foster care crisis in Pima County - Tucson News Now

Foster care crisis in Pima County

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

There's a crisis in Pima County.

There are not enough foster homes for the children who need them.

More children are being removed from their homes, while places for them to go are all filled up.

We're told that gone are the days when a child was placed in a home appropriate for the situation.

Now, agencies say as soon as a bed opens up, a child is placed there.  

There are several factors involved.

Many can be traced back to state budget cuts.

In Pima County there are up to 4,000 children in what's called "out of home care."

The recession forced many families to stop considering foster care because of their financial situations.

However, state budget cuts added to the numbers of children being removed from their homes.

Programs that helped keep high-risk families together suffered some of the biggest cuts.

The programs prevented child abuse and neglect.

They taught parenting skills and nutrition.

The state slashed their funds 75-percent.

The state blamed the recession for the cuts, but the people who work with high-risk families are now seeing the results since the cuts were made in 2009.

"So since then we kind of, in the field, figured we would see a rise in kids as those services weren't provided. So that's what we've been seeing in the last year--year-and-a-half--is now the kids are coming into care because the families weren't given the services they needed to maintain a healthy home," says Mary Jeanne Chavez, La Paloma Family Services Director of Foster Care.

It's a high price for children to pay. They suffer abuse and/or neglect, then removal from their homes.

The Casa de los Ninos shelter for abused and neglected children began seeing more serious abuse cases as well.

Pima County often must send children to the Phoenix area because there are no beds in the Tucson area.

"It then becomes very difficult for them to engage with services with their parents, for them to see their parents. One of the great predictors of a child being able to go back to their family is how many visits they get with their parents. So then that becomes a real struggle, bringing a child down from Phoenix for a two-hour visit, and then they have to go back to Phoenix. That's a six-hour trip for a child to see their parents," says Mary Jeanne Chavez, La Paloma Family Services Director of Foster Care.

Estimates are that it costs $5,000 to give a high-risk family the services necessary to keep the family together and maintain a healthy home.

The state pays about $35,000 a year for foster care for one child.

Tucson area agencies are urging people to consider becoming foster families, to help with what has become a very difficult situation, especially for the children.

Chavez says the hope is that people will begin the process of becoming foster families right away because the licensing process can take up to nine months.

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