The Farley Report from Phoenix #209: 5-29-14

Welcome to the first 2014 monthly inter-session Farley Report, although I will be using this one to share with you my take on the just-concluded special session to create the new Department of Child Safety. But first, a bit of campaign-related news:

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The deadline for candidates to file for election was yesterday, and thanks to your help I filed with nearly twice the signatures I needed to qualify for the ballot. Furthermore, no one else filed to oppose me due to strong bipartisan support among my constituents so as of now I have the honor of continuing to serve as your State Senator through 2016. However there is always the possibility that someone may file in the next several weeks to take me on as a write-in. If you want to help ensure that I stay in office, I am still accepting contributions to be prepared for any late challenges. Thank you! You can securely give $20, $200, or even $2000 online right now!

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On to the latest from the Capitol:

--> Governor Signs CPS Reform Bills: This afternoon at around 2:15, Governor Jan Brewer signed two bills to eliminate the broken Child Protective Services agency and establish a new cabinet-level Department of Child Safety (DCS), aimed at pushing through the backlog of more than 6,000 uninvestigated cases that we first heard about last November and another backlog of cases not recently investigated (in the previous 60 days) that is still increasing to more than 16,000. 

ChildSafetyReformBillCeremonyLR.jpg

I was honored that the Governor personally invited me to join her at the signing ceremony due to the work I put in to help protect the bill from hostile amendments supported by President Biggs. In this official photo I am second from the right, standing next to new DCS Director Charles Flanagan in whose extremely capable charge we have placed the safety of our state's children. I am assisting Rep. Doris Goodale (R-Kingman), who despite having a disabling stroke last year wanted to stand at the event to show her support for the bipartisan work we accomplished under the Governor's leadership to save kids' lives. 

--> But the work is just beginning: While we are now well-positioned to adequately investigate all abuse and neglect charges and remove children from dangerous situations, we still have much to do to stop them from getting into those dangerous situations in the first place. 

The reason we have so many kids in crisis is that we have conducted a huge and unwise experiment for the last few years seemingly aimed at answering the question: What happens when the majority is successful in cutting all prevention programs aimed at keeping kids safe in their families of origin? 

The answer is now clear. As I shared on the Senate floor over the last few days, I did the math and discovered that since Fiscal Year 2010, we have cut an aggregate $210 million from general fund support for childcare subsidies and intensive family services. What returns did we receive from that savings? We spent $965.1 million MORE on non-prevention child safety programs -- investigations, foster care, casework, and other intervention services -- all after the kids are in the system. That is a 500% negative return on those "savings".

So here is the question I posed to members, and will continue to pose until we get prevention funded: Why not invest $200 million now, to save $1 billion -- and thousands of kids’ lives -- later? Isn’t that fiscal conservatism? 

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Here is another bit of data from that experiment we have witnessed. I drew up this chart to demonstrate what happened when the majority eliminated just one effective type of prevention -- childcare subsidies that allow working parents to keep their kids safe while they work at a low-wage job that otherwise would not pay enough to allow them to pay for decent care. This used to be a basic Republican principle -- "welfare to work" -- espoused by conservative icons like Ronald Reagan. 

These subsidies were frozen in 2003-2004, and then again from early 2009 to the present. The result at both times was harshly clear -- child neglect cases increased dramatically. In the case of the most recent cuts, we have seen cases of neglect rise by more than 6,000 kids who are now in the system.  

The recent bill includes an additional $4 million in childcare subsidies, only enough to add another 500 children to the program off a 6,600-child waitlist. It would take $25 million a year to fund the whole thing, and patterns since 2010 suggest that $25 million investment would save more than $100 million in costs to investigate and intervene if those kids later became victims of neglect. And more importantly the kids would stay safe and stable, which pays off for a lifetime.

So in sum, the Governor and the bipartisan majority (unanimous except for Kelli Ward's (R-Havasu) lone No vote) have done a great job with the triage, but we have to get prevention programs restored before we can claim true long-lasting victory for our kids. I am hoping that voters in November elect a majority willing to do just that next session. We can't wait any longer. 

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator. 

Steve

Steve Farley

Senator, District 9, Tucson

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