Hundreds of parents, foster parents, current and former Child Protective Services (CPS) employees and child advocates showed up Tuesday night when the public had a chance to offer constructive ideas to five members of the CPS Oversight Committee.

Members of the public encouraged committee members to take a deeper look at the court system which can take more time than necessary; consider more support for parents through prevention programs; and increase transparency in the organization, among several other suggestions. Many speakers pointed out that there has been a major increase in cases dealing with neglect and that prevention for those cases would be helpful. Funding for prevention programs, like low-cost day care, has been cut in recent years.

Four members of the CPS oversight committee were on hand including Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, Rep. Debbie McCune Davis and Dana Wolfe Naimark, president of Children’s Action Alliance, who moderated the event.

“We do understand this is a complex problem,” Davis said. “This is not just 6,000 cases, this is an entire system that needs to be refocused on guarding families. It’s really valuable for us to hear different perspectives on this issue.”

The meeting was meant to give the public, especially those involved in the system in one way or another, a chance to offer suggestions for the future. It was recently revealed that more than 6,500 CPS cases had never been investigated. Gov. Jan Brewer has created an independent committee to review those cases. Five staff members have been placed on administrative leave.

The bottom line from many in attendance was that the state needs to put a great focus on funding CPS and prevention programs.

“For many budget cycles that has been a strong point we have reiterated and that is we cannot take away wrap around services for families,” Taylor said. “There are complexities I heard this evening in the judicial system. We have to take a look at that.”

A transcript of the forum and all written comments will be sent to all members of the CPS Legislative Oversight Committee, Gov. Brewer, the CPS CARE team and all state legislators and their staff. Additional comments and suggestions can be sent to cpsforum@azchildren.org.

The forum was hosted by Children’s Action Alliance. For more information, visit azchildren.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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