Arizona’s lawmakers can help abused and neglected children by making a few simple changes to state law.
It’s about permanent guardianship.
Don’t let your eyes glaze over just because it doesn’t sound exciting.
Kids don’t need exciting. They need solid. They need stable. They need family and a sense of belonging.
That’s what this is all about.
Foster kids deserve a permanent home
Children who have been placed in foster care because of abuse or neglect are in limbo – regardless how kind and dedicated the foster parents may be.
Permanent guardianship can give them a place to belong. To stay.
It is something short of adoption. But it can be just as long lasting.
It takes children out of the system and gives them a permanent home with people they know and trust – a home that can include family connections and the comfort of the familiar.
Arizona began allowing permanent guardianships in 1999.
According to the Department of Child Safety policy
, this is an option for children when family reunification is not possible and the chance of adoption is low or the termination of parental rights is not in the best interest of the child.
A permanent guardian can be an aunt or family friend who is willing to take over the duties of raising and safeguarding a child or sibling group – even though parental rights may not have been severed.
Losing family in itself is traumatic
Maintaining those parental rights can be important to the child and the extended family.
This is where respect for family sometimes gets lost in the child welfare system.
For many people, a child who has been taken from an abusive or neglectful home has been “rescued.” But to the child, it represents being ripped from everything familiar. It means losing the most fundamental human connections.
It means losing the family.
Experience shows that many former foster children seek out their parents when they turn 18. The pull of the family remains strong regardless of the parents’ problems.
Clearly, when a child’s safety is at risk, the state cannot allow the child to stay in a dangerous home. Yet the failure to recognize the importance of family led to record numbers of children in foster care in Arizona.
In 2016, the number peaked at over 18,000. The number has been falling. It was 15,432 as of November 2017, according to DCS.
Arizona’s child welfare system is recognizing the importance of family with an enhanced emphasis on prevention and family preservation, as well as efforts to keep children out of foster care.
Permanent guardianship is an important tool in that effort.
Bill helps guardians get aid
According to the Children’s Action Alliance, there were 2,737 children with 1,657 permanent guardians in May 2017.
Over the last 15 years, an average of 682 children have left foster care for permanent guardianship every year.
Taking in a child or sibling group puts a financial strain on a family, yet current law makes it difficult for permanent guardians to get subsidies.
Senate Bill 1166
, sponsored by Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, streamlines the process.
It allows permanent guardians to begin the application process for subsidies before the court makes the final decision to grant the guardianship. This is how things are handled for adoptive parents because it lets families know what to expect so they can plan.
The change will eliminate months of waiting after a child has been placed with a permanent guardian, says Beth Rosenberg of Children’s Action Alliance.
The bill allows permanent guardians who subsequently adopt to apply for adoption subsidies. Currently, they cannot.