Now’s the time to help our children

As we enter the 2015 holiday season there are more than 18,000 children in Arizona’s foster care system, and the number is growing. On average, 33 children come into foster care each and every day. There are not nearly enough foster homes for the flood of children coming into care, and many spend their first few days sleeping in DCS offices. In Maricopa County alone, we are caring for more than 12,000 children in foster care.

How can we as Arizona taxpayers help children in foster care? The issues surrounding the Department of Child Safety are numerous and overwhelming. What an individual taxpayer in Arizona can do to make a difference in the life of a child today is simple.

Read more: Now’s the time to help our children

For Never Familes?


Governor Doug Ducey made headlines this spring with bold pro-adoption maneuverings. But with approximately 18,000 children – and counting – in the state’s care, is Arizona as adoption-friendly as we claim?


DCS Emergency Shelter Still Closed After Bed Bugs Found Earlier This Week


The Arizona Department of Child Safety emergency shelter is still closed after a bed bug infestation earlier in the week.

DCS has temporarily closed its after-hours emergency shelter for abused or neglected children only a few months after first opening its doors.

DCS spokesman Doug Nick said the staff is prepared for situations like the current bed bug infestation.

"We obviously are prepared for this kind of contingency," Nick said. "It’s not something we like to look forward to, but obviously something we need to be prepared for, we are prepared for, and are dealing with it.”

Nick said during the closure, children will be placed in foster care or DCS offices.

Tamera Shanker with Arizona Friend’s of Foster Children Foundation said this latest incident is one of many that show poor management from the DCS.

“This recent debacle is just another indicator of our system not being prepared to screen kids before putting them in an aggregate setting with other children,” Shanker said. "With only volunteers and overworked and tired DCS workers to man the shelter, it's not surprising that the children aren't getting physically examined for parasites like this."

Nick said the shelter is expected to re-open by the middle of next week.

National Adoption Month: Connecting kids with families

FLORENCE, Elisia Manuel doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges of adoption and parenthood. But those things have also filled her heart and given her a purpose in life.

Manuel, a 33-year-old mother who lives in Casa Grande, and her husband, Tecumseh, adopted their third child on Saturday at the Pinal County Courthouse in Florence.

The Saturday event in Florence was one of many that took place across the country to celebrate National Adoption Month.

A couple of days before the adoption, Manuel talked about her prior experiences and how she was looking forward to officially adopting her third child. Adoption provided her and Tecumseh, who have been together 11 years, the opportunity to be parents.

“We always wanted children; I found I wasn’t able to have children (myself),” she said.

Last year, Manuel adopted two children, a boy and a girl — both are just a few months shy of their third birthday.

But the children have been in Manuel’s custody almost since birth. She said the adoption process can take a year or longer. It took 14 months for the adoption to be “fully finalized” with those children from last year’s adoption, Telisia and Tecumseh Jr.

All three children the Manuels have taken in are from the Gila River Indian Community; Tecumseh, 34, is a Gila River Indian Community member.

Adoption attorney Tamera Shanker said Arizona has more than 18,000 foster children, and approximately 2,400 of those are “legally free” to be adopted.

If a child is “legally free” to be adopted, a couple can adopt immediately, without the long wait that accompanies adopting other children whose biological parents are still finalizing paperwork through the court system to release their child.

Manuel is promoting adoption to the masses because she said there aren’t enough foster families participating.

“I encourage everyone to get involved and think about foster care and adoption,” she said. “A lot of kids end up in group homes.”

The child Manuel adopted Saturday, a son named Micah, has been in her custody for a year-and-a-half, since he was two days old. But Manuel said it’s a different feeling when things become official and finalized for adoption.

“I’ve been counting the days down for a month … I’m so excited,” she said. “My heart skips beats and my stomach is in knots because I know he’ll be mine forever.”

Manuel’s passion for adoption led her to create a nonprofit organization called Three Precious Miracles — more information can be found at

The nonprofit, which Manuel said is in its infant stages and run out of her garage, provides care packages for foster families who want to adopt Native American children. She said many families have trouble providing basic necessities like shoes and clothes to the foster children.

Three Precious Miracles has sent care packages for about 100 foster kids so far, Manuel said.

When asked what the foster parent experience has been like, Manuel acknowledged it isn’t always easy.

“It has its ups and downs; there’s a lack of resources in Native (American areas),” she said. “We appreciate the fact that we’ve been given the opportunity. It’s been such a blessing for us.”

Donna McBride, a Court Appointed Special Advocate supervisor and co-chair of the Pinal County Adoption Day event, said the county is proud to be involved with the effort.

“By giving these children stable, loving environments, you can make a powerful difference in their lives,” she said. “And our communities, in return, will experience incredible joys and rewards.”

According to a Pinal County news release, more than 100,000 children are in the United States foster care system. Every year, more than 4,000 adoptions are finalized across the country on special adoption days.

More than 22,000 children turn 18 annually without having a foster family.

Shanker, the adoption attorney, said potential foster families don’t need to look outside Arizona to find a foster child.

“We need not go beyond the borders of our state to create a family through adoption, as we have thousands of our state’s children that are looking for a forever home,” she said.

Some Claim Funding an Issue for DCS


A federal class action lawsuit has been filed against the state Departments of Child Safety and Health Services on behalf of ten children currently in state foster care. The suit claims major deficiencies in the system, but as Arizona Public Radio’s Justin Regan Reports, some argue a lack of funding is to blame.

Tamera Shanker is a Phoenix-based juvenile lawyer and the board chair for the Arizona Friends of Foster Children. She says many of Child Protective Services’ problems started in 2009 when the state legislature cut the agency’s budget in half. CPS responded by dropping all preemptive programs.

"Subsidized day care, health care, the family preservations teams that would come in and support a family so that the kids wouldn’t be taken into care. All of that was completely eviscerated. And, what we found at that point then is an exponential increase since 2009 in kids coming into care,” said Shanker.

Shanker also says she has not seen any change in the system since then Governor Brewer re-built the agency as the Department of Child Safety last year. The lawsuit claims a lack of health care for children and that the agencies failed to investigate allegations of abuse among other issues.

Though the governor’s office would not comment specifically on the lawsuit, they are reviewing the filing. But, in an email statement to KNAU said “Governor Ducey takes the safety and well-being of foster care children extremely seriously.”


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