Sarah Ford | February 10, 2015

Our children deserve better, and now is the time to act.

Picture being removed from your home at just 6 years old after being exposed to neglect and domestic violence. You’re then ripped away from your siblings – the only people with whom you have a meaningful connection – right when you need them most.

Then imagine becoming suicidal, being hospitalized, and then instead of being placed with a loving family, you are instead shuffled through a pair of shelters. You long for comfort and a place to call home – but suffer through the instability of moving between eight schools and 11 placements.

This was a reality for C.P., one of Children’s Rights’ named plaintiffs in our Arizona reform campaign. He represents thousands with similar stories and that is why Children’s Rights, the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest and the Phoenix law firm Coppersmith Brockelman PLC just filed a class action suit on behalf of more than 16,000 children in Arizona foster care. The suit seeks to address heartbreaking and inexcusable practices, including:

• A severe lack of, and inability to access, physical, mental and behavioral health services.Currently only about 400 foster homes provide therapeutic services to children, not nearly enough for the more than 16,000 children in state foster care.

• A severe and sustained shortage of family foster homes. As of September 2014, 3,749 children were without foster homes. There are many instances when children sleep in DCS offices because homes aren’t available.

 A widespread failure to engage in basic child welfare practices aimed at preserving family relationships. As of September 2013, the state failed to place all siblings together 35 percent of the time, and as of September 2012, only 31 percent of children were placed in the same zip code as the homes from which they were removed.

• The failure to ensure timely investigations into reports that children have been maltreated while in state foster care. From October 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013, more than half of all investigations involving kids in state care were initiated late.

Our children deserve better, and now is the time to act. Together, we will continue to fight, until foster care becomes a safe haven for every child in Arizona state care.

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