9OYS Continuing Coverage

It was all a misunderstanding, says CPS

CREATED Dec. 18, 2012 - UPDATED: Dec. 19, 2012

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  • Aviva's director thinks it'll be early to mid January before CPS can get the funds flowing to allow supervised visits to resume.

  • State Senator Linda Lopez thinks media pressure is about the only thing that gets action from CPS

Reporter: Craig Smith

Web Producer: Mekita Rivas

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It's been a heated battle and now state bureaucrats appear to be waving the white flag.
     
We're talking about the emotional dispute between Child Protective Services and parents who've told 9 On Your Side that budget cuts have left them unable to see their kids who are in CPS custody.

Now CPS is changing course and chalking it all up to a big misunderstanding.

It's quiet at Aviva Childrens Services. When high demand cleaned out the budget and CPS did not OK ore, Aviva laid off 32 workers and cut off parent-child visits. Aviva is just one of many agencies in the same situation.

Now CPS sent a letter saying staff misunderstood, should not have stopped funding and CPS will work out ways to restore visitation programs for Aviva and agencies like it. But the letter does not give Aviva's director Bob Heslinga a clear picture of how and when that will happen.

"This miscommunication cost 32 people their jobs," Heslinga said. 
    
Heslinga says that CPS letter still leaves him in the dark about whether he'll be able to re-hire staff he had to lay off and restore the visits parents need to get their kids back.
    
We tried to get some answers from CPS. 
    
"Not available for an interview this afternoon," was the reply. But in a statement, the agency does say it will adjust funding in line with the boost in demand.
    
If CPS didn't hide behind the statement, here's one thing we would have asked: Why did it take almost two weeks after supervised visit programs stopped to realize a misunderstanding shut down a critical program?
    
Tucson State Senator Linda Lopez thinks CPS bosses knew exactly what they were doing, chose the wrong way to deal with a budget crunch and it took media pressure to make them back off.

Reporter Craig Smith asked her: "Has this whole issue hit the point where it is basically being guided by media embarrassment and pressure?"

Lopez: "I have to say, Craig, that's what I think we're seeing here. DES retreats. They shut off. You said it yourself, they're not going to answer questions, they're not going to take any questions, the only way you can get them to move is by putting pressure on them from the media."

Aviva's director says he's heard nothing of substance about how the programs will get funding, but he's cautiously optimistic.

"I thought the letter represented something to me of a light at the end of the tunnel and I'm reasonably sure it's not a freight train," he said.