She was just 5 months old the first time she and her siblings were taken from a mother struggling with addiction and placed in the care of the state. At times, she was separated from her brothers and sisters. She received neither the glasses she needed, nor the orthopedic shoes, leaving her with a limp. Now 10, she has spent more than half her life in foster care, having been returned to her mother only to be removed again, a routine that has been repeated multiple times.
The girl, identified only by the initials B. K., is one of several child plaintiffs named in a lawsuit filed last month by two advocacy groups, which assert that Arizona pulls children from tumultuous family lives only to place them in more turbulent circumstances in the care of the state’s child welfare system. Although that system was overhauled last year, after the disclosure by a whistle-blower that more than 6,500 complaints about child neglect and mistreatment were reported but completely ignored, the lawsuit asserts that only negligible progress has been made.
Comments by Kaine Fisher, Director of Rose Law Group Family Department:
“The old Arizona Child Protective Services system was indeed broken in many ways.
“I know this first-hand as I have represented many families frustrated by the system’s paralysis. It’s going to take more than a change in its name to fix the problems.
“The child welfare system is not a big corporation, such as Starbucks or Apple, that can simply launch a rebranding campaign in an attempt to repair its image. The system must be fixed from the inside-out and from top-to-bottom.
“The injustices that have been exposed are repulsive. My heart goes out to the children related to those 6,500 complaints that were found in a dumpster. There were likely thousands of other children impacted by the lack of oversight, accountability, and funding within the agency before measures were taken to fix the problems. There is still much work to be done and there are still children falling through the cracks.
“I applaud Gregory McKay for wanting to ‘be good’ instead of just ‘looking good.’ But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
“The investigations division needed significant love and attention. I am glad to hear it is receiving it. But what about those children already in the system – children who depend on the system’s resources to meet their daily needs?
“I hope much more is done to focus on the infrastructure of the agency to ensure children are not actually worse off being taken into the state’s custody.