Record number of Arizona children in foster care system

 

The number of children in the Arizona foster care system is higher than ever before. There are enough kids to almost fill the US Airways Center.

Many states are seeing a decrease in kids coming into the system, but Arizona isn't one of them.

More than 20,000 children in Arizona are under some kind of court supervision. That's more than the total population of Sedona and Winslow combined.

Four-fifths of the country has reduced the number of kids in foster care, but Arizona is among 11 states that have added kids to the system. Only Texas had a greater percentage of new cases than Arizona.

The number of Arizona Children in out-of-home care for October is 16,400. Four years ago in September of 2010, it was 10,514.

The number of children who sleep in a shelter for more than 21 days this past march was 802.In September of 2010, it was nearly half at 471.

"Kids are coming into foster care in Arizona at a rate that isn't matched almost anywhere else in the country," said Kris Jacober, executive director of the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation.

Jacober says the recent 6,500 uninvestigated child welfare cases that have been resolved ended with a lot of kids going into foster care.

"In the longer term, we anticipate a decrease in both of these numbers (children in foster care and under court supervision), and we are actively working to achieve this," said Jennifer Bowser from the Department of Child Safety.

The higher numbers have made for more work and more challenges for Jacober, whose group provides things to foster kids the state doesn't spring for.

She's hopeful the state ponies up more money for prevention and early intervention services to get kids in the state back on track.

"So the funding cut of 2009 was brutal. As a foster parent, we saw that allowances for children in our care were cut in half," said Jacober.

Nationally, as of July of 2014, the numbers aren't great, either, with 402,378 children were reportedly in foster care, the highest number since 2010. And the number of those who first entered the foster care system is the highest its been in five years.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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