For years, the state's Child Protective Services has been an easy whipping post for the media. It's gub'ment, after all, which every right-thinking person should oppose, and gub'ment "never does anything right." It's safer to go after CPS than, say, the environmental depredations and political influence/corruption of the Real Estate Industrial Complex. CPS = bad is such a backbeat that one is tempted to not even pay attention.
Still, I saw a story on the agency's most recent report — more reports of child abuse and neglect than ever, but an increase after three years in foster homes — and became curious. The first thing to seem odd is that the Kooks have buried CPS in the Department of Economic Security. Yeah, the unemployment agency. Washington state's child-welfare agency is part of a cabinet-level Department of Social and Health Services. In Colorado, it's in the Department of Human Services. But I suppose this is the "streamlining" of government by the Kooks. Yet the obvious implication is that child welfare is not that important; the agency head is conveniently removed from the governor — unless something goes wrong.
CPS has been more than buried. It has endured years of budget cuts even as population grew and, after the housing depression, the need for social services to working-poor families increased. Some $300 million was cut from these programs over four years by a Legislature not just facing revenue shortfalls, but ideologically opposed to government assistance to the needy. Not surprisingly, children needing foster care rose dramatically. Huge new cuts were being readied last month.
The flinty cruelty of the Kookocracy, combined with an economy of low-pay, part-time jobs and families on the borderline, placed Arizona at 46th among the states in the latest Kid's Count report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Only Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi did worse by their children. This authoritative report looks at such indicators as economic well-being, health, education, and family and community. "A state-level examination of the data reveals a hard truth: A child’s chances of thriving depend not just on individual, familial and community characteristics but also on the state in which she is born and raised."
In the latest Census, 24 percent of Arizona's children lived in poverty. That's 392,000 souls, each one precious to God for those of you who claim to vote on your evangelical values. Thirty-five percent lived in families where their parents lacked secure employment. Ain't "right to work" great? Forty-three percent were in families facing a high housing-cost burden. That's seven-hundred-thousand young souls, each one individually precious to God, who lie awake at night wondering if their mothers can make the rent payments, or maybe lying in a cheap motel, or in the car.
The problems are complex and holistic. Yes, some people are bad parents. Children shouldn't have children (the same Kooks cutting CPS funding would eliminate or severely limit access to contraception). A few parents are downright evil. I went on more horrific child-abuse calls than I care to recall; it was in the hundreds, and only the imperative of treating the often dreadfully injured child — sometimes just a baby — kept me from inflicting far worse on the parent/suspect. We need more personal responsibility in our society (one thinks especially of investment bankers, fossil fuel executives and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne — in the latter case, I always assumed, obviously wrongly, that the "e" on the end of his last name was silent). Our society should speak seriously of the young, call them "children" and not "kids," which are baby goats.
But more than 30 years of policy gamed to hurt the middle class and cut off upward mobility has badly damaged families, too. Things are even worse for the working poor, who have much less chance than before to work their way up in American society. Many must work at least two jobs just to stay ahead. Savage cuts have been made to public education, especially in poor areas, especially in Arizona. The state also created a low-wage economy, especially dependent on easily exploited low-skill immigrants, driven into the shadows and even more exploitable by SB 1070. As I've written before, the wasted human capital alone is one of the factors holding back the entire state. But these pressures on families are also disproportionate breeding grounds for child abuse, neglect and abandonment,
Meanwhile, the agency that should be a backstop to help children in need is just a perpetual punching bag. Move along. Nothing to see here. Pay no attention to the funding cuts, abysmal salaries, impossible caseloads and working conditions for caseworkers, and lack of constructive attention from the governor or Legislature. And done so not out of mere Anglo- and class-supremacy blindness but out of fealty to "conservative" dogma.
To reverse Talleyrand, it is worse than a blunder, it is a crime.