The number of children sleeping in Department of Child Safety offices is higher than it has ever been before. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -
There are more than 17,000 children in Arizona who are not sleeping at home. Instead, they are with a foster family or in a group shelter.
The number of children sleeping in Department of Child Safety offices is also higher than it has ever been before.
According to the latest figures released by DCS, 287 children spent at least one night in a state-owned office building near 19th Avenue and Osborn in Phoenix in April. Numbers were not immediately available for counties other than Maricopa.
When we first reported on this issue in a series of reports back in October 2014, state officials were bringing cots and cribs into the office building as an emergency measure designed for children removed from abusive or neglectful homes. Those children were unable to be immediately placed within a group home or foster care home.
In October 2014, DCS officials reported 94 children spent at least one night in the office building. The next month following our report, the number dropped to 42 kids.
Since then, however, the numbers have skyrocketed. A total of 136 kids spent the night there in March and 287 slept there in April. That averages out to about nine to 10 children a night.
Additionally, the numbers reveal that more than half of the children removed from their homes spent the night in the office.
Thursday, DCS officials announced an agreement between non-profit advocacy group ChildHelp and the city of Phoenix to secure 6,000 square feet of space in central Phoenix to get some of those kids out of the DCS offices.
"Were looking for more ways, more facilities, more partnerships like this so we don't have any kids ever in offices. That's not the way it ought to be at all," said Doug Nick with DCS.
"It's an emergency intake center. It is not a shelter or a group home," Nick said. "It's a very temporary situation. We want to make sure we have the beds, toys, a place for these kids to be fed."
This deal came together in less than two weeks, but we asked it took seven months since our initial report for DCS to take action.
Nick says since taking over DCS in February, Director Greg McKay has been logging long hours trying to get the agency on the right track.
The new facility will be available beginning June 1 and will be able to house up to 16 children. It is only meant for children younger than 10, however, meaning those older than 10 may still have to sleep in the office building until a more permanent solution is found.