Child Protective Services (CPS), the state agency responsible for protecting the safety and welfare of vulnerable children, is one of the most embattled sectors of our local government. Understaffed and underfunded, CPS struggles with the ever-growing task of investigating child abuse, finding homes for children who need them, and other related tasks.
Arizonans for Children, Inc. reports that emergency shelters regularly harbor 1,300 children for three weeks or more while they await placement in homes. The need for qualified foster parents exceeds availability, so CPS, although careful to select safe places to send children who need care, sometimes makes controversial decisions.
azcentral.com reports that Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson asked Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne to help return a child to Lake Havasu City, where his mother currently resides. The child was separated from his two brothers, who are currently in Prescott, and was himself placed in the care of Dan Wayman, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) in Colorado City.
The FLDS Church, situated in numerous enclaves along the Arizona-Utah border, has garnered national attention over the course of many years for its policies, which include polygamy. Supervisor Johnson believes that CPS should not permit foster care or adoptions in Colorado City, where he says arranged marriages and family-run businesses lead to spousal and child abuse and underage labor.
Meanwhile, Dan Wayman has one adopted son and is licensed to care for up to five children. According to Johnson, CPS is considering placing the child’s brothers in the same home in accordance with an overarching policy to keep families together where possible.
Children can be placed under CPS supervision for a many reasons, including being abandoned or being removed from parental custody after becoming victims of abuse. CPS attempts to place such children with relatives if possible, and subjects potential foster and adoptive parents to a licensing procedure before approving their application to care for children.
Although CPS investigates the mental health, history, and lifestyle of prospective caretakers, there are simply too many variables to consider – and too great a need for more open homes – to guarantee that every foster parent is qualified.
Most caretakers are highly qualified and perform their duties admirably, but sometimes children are moved from one dangerous situation to another when they are removed from their homes and placed in foster care. In addition, mistakes can sometimes lead to children being taken away from loving parents whose mistakes do not warrant such drastic measures. In those scenarios, placing a child in a potentially harmful foster care situation would be a tragedy, particularly if the allegations leading to the child’s removal turn out to be false.
The laws governing Child Protective Services and the scenarios in which their duties are triggered can be complex. Criminal, family, and other unique areas of law often intersect in CPS-related cases, creating a mired field of complicated legal issues.