Lawmaker says it's time to outsource help to address DCS backlog

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Republican Sen. Debbie Lesko, LD-17. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Republican Sen. Debbie Lesko, LD-17. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Where's the money?

That's the question for the new Department of Child Safety. Millions of taxpayer dollars were spent to address the backlog of un-investigated cases of abuse and neglect. But we've told you the backlog has only gotten worse. One Arizona lawmaker now says it's now time to outsource the problem to a third party.

That lawmaker says DCS hasn't been able to make the thousands of vulnerable children safe. Private agencies, she says, have been wanting to help. It's time to take them up on their offer. 

"For 2 years, the legislature has asked the Department of Child Safety to please reduce these backlog cases," said Republican Sen. Debbie Lesko, LD-17

As a member of the state's Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Senator Lesko has pressed DCS leaders for answers. 

"We don't know if these children are safe or not and so we need to address this issue," Lesko said.

Part of her job is to follow every dollar the legislature doles out. "In the last two years, the legislature has given them $45 million specifically to reduce the backlog cases," Lesko explained.

Even with all of that money spent, Lesko is angered that the amount of backlog cases at DCS has increased to now 14,392 as of Dec. 15, 2015. Now, she's pitching a unique solution.

"It requires the Department of Child Safety to outsource the backlog cases to professional, reputable providers, that already know how to do this," Lesko said.

"We have great folks in our community who have the passion, have the expertise, have the experience, and they have been offering to help," added Dana Wolfe Naimark. She is president and CEO of the Children's Action Alliance and advocates for those private providers. "...who recruit foster families, who train foster families, and who provide parent aid services to families in the system," Naimark explained.

Essentially, she is referring to services DCS has been paid to provide but hasn't delivered.

"We need some accountability and we need some assurance that if we give you more money, that it's actually gonna get done," Lesko said.

Lesko's bill calls for DCS to get bids from private agencies who could help to fix the backlog. She's confident there would be bi-partisan support to include whatever the cost is in DCS funding during the upcoming budget process.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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