Why is there a foster care crisis in Arizona?
Arizona has a child welfare crisis. In 2010 about 10,000 kids were in foster care but by 2016 this number was up to nearly 20,000 kids. In 2017 we have seen many changes and our numbers have decreased to just over 15,000, but the crisis for foster homes remains.
The reasons for this crisis are complex. Here is some background on how we got here, and what to do now to support children who are in need of safe and loving homes.
In the midst of the Great Recession that began in 2007, Arizona’s state government dramatically cut funding for child abuse prevention services. State lawmakers slashed over $300 million from programs that benefited struggling families.
Funding was cut to programs that assisted struggling families and programs that educated caregivers about abuse and neglect. This funding hasn’t been restored to pre-recession levels.
These programs helped families get the resources they needed. Without additional support, some families had trouble meeting their children’s basic needs and/or were suspected of abuse and neglect. The majority of children in the foster system are there because of issues of neglect.
From 2010 to 2013, the number of children in Arizona’s foster care system increased more than 40 percent (1). The lack of services for families, coupled with a growing demand for support in child care and housing, created a deficit in family support services in Arizona. To remedy the crisis, Arizona needs to provide crucial services that support families.
Foster Homes For the Wrong Kids
There are only 4,800 foster homes in our state — and the demand for homes continues to climb (2). Part of the issue is that for every foster home opened in a month, another one closes (3). As of June 2017, over 2,100 children reside in group homes, not family foster homes (3). Our state needs more homes for Arizona’s most vulnerable kids, particularly for children 13-17 years old. The majority of foster families want to care of children under 6 years old. More than half of the children living in group homes are 13-17 years old (4).