Special session creating new child welfare agency begins this week

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -
Lawmakers will try to fix the state's broken child welfare system in a special legislative session this week. They will create an entirely new agency and sort through thousands of abuse and neglect allegations that have fallen through the cracks.

"It's our duty to protect all the kids in our state, and we obviously haven't been doing that," said Rep. Eric Meyer. He has been involved with the Department of Child Safety - formally known as CPS. He said they'll be siphoning about $50 million to 60 million to the new agency.

"The $50 million will come from a number of bills the governor vetoed that would have created tax changes," Meyer said. He said the initial focus will be the thousands of backlogged cases. Then once they're up and running, they will shift that focus to prevention.

"Those dollars that were used to deal with the backlog of cases will be shifted to preventative services," Meyer said.

"We're not going to see success in the first six months," said Dana Wolfe-Naimark with the Children's Action Alliance. She said those preventative services, like childcare, are paramount to fix the system.

"The number of children participating has plummeted, just plummeted," Wolfe-Naimark said.

She said the number of kids receiving childcare assistance will increase, from 7,500 currently to 8,500. That's still less than a third of the number of kids getting that help only five years ago.

Wolfe-Naimark said while this three-year plan sounds great, it'll be up to the voters to hold the leaders accountable.

"Of course, Governor Brewer will be gone, this legislature will officially be gone," Wolfe-Naimark said, "So it'll be up to us in the community and to voters and citizens all over the city and state to continue this pressure."

The session starts Tuesday afternoon and could be wrapped up by Thursday if everybody approves of the bill creating this new agency as it stands currently.
 
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