DES cuts mean ending programs helping the Valley's children, disabled

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azfamily.com

PHOENIX - The budget cuts affecting the Department of Economic Security mean the end of some of their programs.

Protest at the Capitol

Included in the cuts are programs Valley mom Shawnie Huff and her three kids suffering from Down syndrome have relied on.

Taking a closer look at the long term affects, you can see the need many have for the DES funding.

A Valley mom knows all too well about Down syndrome and the services needed to give young kids a chance at living a normal life.

That mom sat down to talk about what will happen to the kids when state programs to help them are cut.

Nine months ago, the Huff family from Gilbert traveled to Serbia to bring home a two-year-old boy with Down syndrome.

Huff said she bragged to officials there about the progress Down syndrome children make here in Arizona because of all the services available to them.

Tonight she said she feels like a liar.

"When we brought Max home he was a little rag doll," she said.

This little rag doll named Max has Down syndrome. The Huff family adopted him from a Serbian orphanage nine months ago.

"In nine months he's walking, he's got some words, he's doing sign language he's you know feeding himself with a spoon, he's just, he's a whole different kid now."

His mom attributes Max's progress to the four hours of speech, occupational and physical therapy he receives every week. Its similar to the therapy his brother Tyler received when he was Max's age.

"I want him to live to his full potential I mean I feel like by not having those services its going to be harder to get there, it's going to be harder to bring that out," Huff said.

Huff is concerned because the services that proved so vital to Tyler's developmental success have been cut. That means max misses out.

"I would pay higher taxes to pay for services," Huff said. " There are so many things I would be willing to do so my kids and kids like my kids can get the services that they need."

Services that are vital, but no longer available to Max and thousands of other babies like him around Arizona.

Trudi Norman Murch is with Southwest Human Development, the organization that provided Max's therapy.

"I've worked in third world countries where children with these kinds of disabilities were receiving services and I honestly don't believe I'm living in a state or in a time where these kids wouldn't get help or support," Murch said. "I actually don't believe it."

Six million dollars in cuts for disabled children is scheduled to take affect March 1, but there is hope the state is receiving millions of dollars in stimulus money which advocates say could be used for the program. They say there are alternatives and they will try to make their case on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at a rally at the State Capital. Anyone is welcome to join the various Valley organizations that provide support for the disabled at Thursday's rally.

As another option to contacting the legislature you can get involved in community events and organizations. The Huffs are involved in the first ever Easter Seals Walk With Me in May. For more information visit . Another Valley organization you can become involved in is Mosaic, .

Child Protective Services is also seriously affected by the cuts at DES. There will be a reduction in home services for 4,000 children , as well as a cut in independent-living subsidies for teens coming out of foster care and a decision not to investigate all reports of children who might be in danger.

"There is no way to recover from budget cuts like this," Dana Naimark of Children's Action Alliance. "Our Child Protective Services staff have caseloads that are completely overwhelming and they just cannot do their jobs well. ... They're job, what we're asking them to do as taxpayers, is to protect kids. When they can't do it, we're all in trouble.

"We're asking our state lawmakers to use the federal stimulus money that's coming to Arizona right now, use it quickly and use it to restore some of these cuts."