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Arizona Department of Child Safety faces criticism at hearing | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey | #hacking | #aihp

Dozens spoke out about issues they’ve faced with DCS during a special meeting with state lawmakers.

PHOENIX — Parents are being kept in the dark about what’s happening to their kids while they are in state care.

Dozens of stories were shared in front of Arizona lawmakers during a special House Ad Hoc Committee on missing children in foster group homes. What almost every story had in common was the issues those parents faced when dealing the Arizona Department of Child Safety on Wednesday. 

Representative Barbara Parker who chaired the meeting said that on any given day there are between 30 to 150 kids in DCS care that have been reported as missing.

The reoccurring theme was that parents weren’t notified when their child, while in state custody, was reported missing or even found dead until days or weeks after it happened.

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“My son was found deceased on the 24th of September, the same day he went missing, and no one contacted me,” said one speaker.

There were claims of drugs, rape, abuse, and sex trafficking made by several at Wednesday’s meeting. All of them called for DCS to be held accountable.

“How many children must die or never come home for this department to take accountability?” said another parent.

What really struck a chord for those in attendance was hearing from two teenage girls who were once in the foster care system and saw firsthand what was happening.

“When we run, we think no one will come looking for us,” said 16-year-old Jasmine.

Jasmine said she was in the system for about two years. In that time she said three boys who were in the same group home ran away. Luckily, Jasmine said, they were found not too far from the home. But that’s not always the case.

“There’s drugs, trafficking, kidnapping and most kids don’t really know that though,” Jasmine said. “So they run thinking it will get better. It only gets worse.”

14-year-old Jayden also spoke Wednesday. When asked why kids in foster care decide to run away in the first place, she said it’s because they don’t feel like anyone will come looking for them.

“They feel trapped,” Jayden said. “They don’t have love and support because they got [taken] away from their family. So they think if they run, they might find the family member or find some freedom, but they don’t know what they’re going into.”

Jayden believes moms and dads should be involved in the group homes to make children feel more supported and loved while they are going through the system.

RELATED: Arizona changing how to report missing kids after 2 teens ended up dead in Mesa

In January, two teenage girls were found dead in a Mesa water basin. Reports claim both had been missing for two weeks before word got out. It lead to a bill by Representative Warren Peterson that was signed into law by the governor in January. It requires law enforcement to be called within 24 hours of a foster kid running away or being abducted. It also requires that child’s name and photo to be released to the public. The issue Parker said, is the enforcement element of the law that was originally in place was taken out. She claims Governor Katie Hobbs told her that she would veto the bill if it wasn’t removed.

Still it’s a law both Jayden and Jasmine are in full support of.

“It is a very dark place and I’m hoping that with this law, it could be a light of hope for all of them,” Jasmine said.

However, Parker said DCS is not following these standards: one of the reasons why this special meeting was called.

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General council for DCS Katie Ptack spoke for the department during the meeting after hearing nearly three hours of testimony. 

 “The department has created partnerships with agencies that specialize in the location and recovery of missing abducted and runaway children,” Ptack said.

When asked about abuse in the group homes, Ptack said DCS only investigates if it involved the parent, guardian, or custodian. If one foster child is abusing another child, that falls to law enforcement to investigate.

Ptack was asked about staffing levels at each home. Earlier in the meeting Jayden said there are sometimes ten kids to one worker. Ptack said she didn’t know the answer off the top of her head but every child has a case manager that is supposed to visit once a month.

Following the meeting, Representative Parker said she was not satisfied with the answers by DCS. She said there are several questions that still need to be answered to try and address the overall issue so many are claiming DCS is responsible for.

“They failed federal audits, they failed state audits,” Parker said,. “They’re going to have to answer that.”

Another meeting regarding the Department of Child Safety will be held in January, 2024.

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