Arizona is taking actions to reduce the number of children in the foster care system. So far, the numbers look good. According to DCS, there were over 18,000 kids in the system in 2016. Last year, that was down to 15,432. An important factor is that the state is recognizing the importance of family preservation. They are also increasing the number of permanent guardians.
The Department of Child Safety describes permanent guardianship as an option for children who cannot be unified, their chance of adoption is low, or it’s not in their best interest for parental rights to be severed. Keeping those rights may benefit possible relationships with extended family. Many children reconnect with their families after they turn 18. That relationship is strong and can be unwavering despite the problems of the past. Permanent guardianship offers kids a chance to be placed with people they know and trust. It makes the experience much less traumatic for them, while placing them while placing them somewhere safe.
Senate Bill 1166, sponsored by Rep. Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, will allow permanent guardians to begin applying for subsidies before the guardianship has been granted by the court. This process is already in place for adoptive parents. In addition, it will allow permanent guardians who go on to adopt to apply for adoption subsidies. In the past, that has not been possible.
In 2017, legislation was changed to allow the juvenile court system to establish permanent guardianship while a dependency hearing pending. In previous years, reunification had to be ruled out before such actions could be taken.