UPDATE: We are working directly with DCS to improve and revise the proposed regulations
You have been heard. Arizona Department of Child Safety is working directly with our organization, the FIRST Advisory Commission, and others who submitted specific revisions to the proposed regulations.
Keep speaking out. Your voices are the reason that significant changes are being made to the proposed new regulations. You work is paying off for children in Arizona foster care.
Proposed new AZ DCS regulations
Arizona foster care is in a crisis. Children are sleeping in offices, and the emergency receiving center is struggling to keep up. Yet, under these bureaucratic regulations, many high-quality licensed foster homes and smaller, family-style group homes would lose their eligibility to be a licensed foster home because of burdensome regulations unrelated to the safety or well being of children.
This means more children will sleep in offices or live in large, expensive, institutional group homes. More children will age out of the system without ever having a permanent family. This could move our foster care system beyond crisis, toward catastrophe.
Little input was gathered from experts or the child welfare community. Those who had input say that their input was not implemented. Many proposed regulations do not meet basic legal standards. The regulations are very poorly written with poor grammar, incorrect word choices, incorrect legal terminology, and incorrect punctuation throughout every page, and because of this poor writing, many of the proposed regulations appear to regulate something other than they were intended.
The result of all of this is a set of regulations that conflict with statutes, conflict with each other, and focus on the wrong issues.
The Arizona child welfare system has been in a constant state of crisis for several years, and that crisis worsens every year. The transition from CPS to DCS provided us with an unprecedented opportunity for reform.
When family court revised their rules, they engaged subject matter experts and members of the community with wide ranging perspectives, and they spent nearly four years on those rules. When they were done, they had reformed the system. People across the country and around the world now refer to those reforms as "the Maricopa model," and other courts try to copy what was done here. Arizona is throwing away an opportunity to create that kind of reform for our most vulnerable children.
Ideally, we'd like for the legislature to provide DCS with another rulemaking exemption or for the governor to lift the moratorium on rulemaking for DCS. Then, we'd like the process to start over with a strong team of people leading the rulemaking process by engaging the community and using proven methodologies.
In the meantime, DCS must have some regulations. The FIRST Advisory Committee and Foster Children's Rights Coalition have submitting revisions to DCS for consideration for the various articles. DCS should implement these revisions.
Our revisions to their revisions
Some of the revisions being proposed separately across the three organizations include:
Foster family rules need to be revised to ensure the state does not lose Title IV-E funding from the federal government.
Revising the issues that have been identified by legal professionals that could potentially create additional liability risks for the state.
Revising language throughout the regulations to reflect federally mandated encouragement of "normalcy" for children in foster care and empowering reasonable and prudent parenting decisions.
Cleaning up poor legal language throughout the regulations: ambiguous wording, incorrect legal terminology, and regulations that conflict with statutes.
Clarification around the issue of married applicants- 21-6-408B
Clarification around the issues of capacity adult/child ratios, sleeping arrangement and sleeping areas, which could make many licensed foster homes ineligible.
Clarification of definitions (including Kinship care, licensee and non relative provider)
Returning pool fencing requirements to the current requirements and to comport with state statutes regarding pool fences.
Return equipment for sleeping and transportation to the current regulation of requiring them at placement vs the proposed regulation of requiring them at licensure.
Adding a general waiver for non-safety issues and a specific waiver for kinship care.
Re-organizing the regulations so that they are easier to understand and comply with for all licensees: foster families, agencies, and group homes.
Dividing group home regulations so that they fit the four classes of group homes rather than lumping them together to create burdensome regulations for some and loose regulations for others. The four classes are: family-style group homes, regular institutional group homes, therapeutic group homes, and residential group homes.
Please note that while most of the revisions across the three organizations are the same or similar, there are some differences. Other organizations have also suggestioned specific revisions, but our organization has only reviewed and endorsed the revisions made by the FIRST Commission, Children's Action Alliance, and of course our own revisions.
About rules and regulations
Rules are regulations of “general applicability” (meaning, they apply to everyone, including DCS). Rules or "regulations" extend laws by describing procedural requirements of laws, filling in gaps in laws, and interpreting laws.
In short, rules are the regulations that control the way a government agency carries out the laws within the agency’s area of authority. These proposed bureaucratic, burdensome regulations, if implemented, would govern DCS and those that the agency licenses or presides over.
About these rules and regulations
The proposed regulations govern DCS and everyone and everything under the authority of DCS, including child abuse and neglect investigations, foster families, group homes, adoption agencies, and much more. The proposed regulations are lengthy, encompassing 95,251 words and more than 500 pages. Our team has been through every word.
While it may not have been the intentions of the drafters to ignore current Arizona law, the text of the proposed regulations conflict with both federal and state law. The regulations are littered with grammatical errors, typos, poor word choices, and other poor writing issues that make these regulations difficult to interpret. In many cases, it appears that regulations were written so poorly that regulations regulate something entirely different than what the writers intended.
To Whom it May Concern:
The proposed new DCS regulations will result in a very large decrease in the number of licensed foster homes. Many will no longer be eligible to be licensed because of bureaucratic regulations that do not protect the safety or well being of children. Others will close their licenses because the experience of being a foster parent will become too burdensome with overly bureaucratic regulations that are unnecessary and do not help the children in care have better lives.
This means a significant number of children currently in foster homes will move to group homes, which cost taxpayers three times the amount of a foster family. While costing tens of millions more of taxpayers’ dollars, the outcomes for these children will be bleak with no family, no support, more institutionalization of abused and neglected children.
Taxpayers will also have to pay more after these proposed regulations stunt the ability of nonprofits to fundraise for children in foster care. The nonprofit organizations who are licensed to provide services to children in foster care rely heavily on fundraising through their board of directors and staff. However, these bureaucratic regulations attempt to govern the way these nonprofits run every aspect of their business, including the selection of board members. The result will be less philanthropy and faith-based funds and more taxpayer expense.
We are asking you to take action. We are asking the legislature to grant DCS an extension to the time period for creating new rules and regulations. We are asking governor to lift the moratorium on rulemaking for this time extension. We are asking the Attorney General to take a close look at the proposed regulations and reject regulations that conflict with statutes. We are asking both the governor and the legislature to appoint an independent party to lead the rulemaking process because DCS has proven that they cannot regulate themselves.
In the meantime, while new rules are being created, DCS must use the revisions submitted by the FIRST Commission and Foster Children's Rights Coalition.
A sample letter is available below on the left hand side. Modify it, make it your own, or just cut and paste. The important thing: Send a letter today.
Email the Arizona governor
Email or call the governor, and tell him to lift the moratorium on rulemaking for DCS and to appoint an independent committee with the right experience and knowledge to write rules that reform and stop burdensome regulations that will be costly to taxpayers.
Email or call your state legislators, and tell them to give AzDCS a new exemption along with a directive to engage the child welfare community and professional experts to create rules that truly make life better for children in foster care without costing taxpayers unnecessary dollars. Tell them to appoint an independent party with the right knowledge and experience to create rules that reform.
Email the Arizona
Email the attorney general, and tell him to review these regulations closely for regulations that conflict with statutes and regulations that use legal terminology incorrectly. Tell him if these legal problems are not fixed, to reject these burdensome, bureaucratic regulations.