Will CPS funding 'misunderstanding' keep parents and kids apart at Christmas?
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It may be a cold, lonely Christmas for parents with kids in CPS custody.
CPS is backtracking from a move that left agencies without funding for supervised visits---a misunderstanding, CPS calls it---but parents, and agencies are very much in the dark about when the visits can get going again.
Late Wednesday, CPS e-mailed us, "The Department will be communicating with vendors shortly regarding next steps."
When we asked them just what they mean by shortly, we never heard back.
With Christmas coming, that's the sort of uncertainty grinding away at parents wondering when they'll be able to see their children again.
We can't show her face because of confidentiality concerns. Stella is not her real name, but her emotion is real.
KGUN 9 reporter Craig Smith asked her: "What's it like when you look at the calendar and think, this would have been the day I'd see my child?
"Stella": "It makes me cry. It breaks my heart."
Stella's daughter is in CPS custody. There are so many troubled families putting so much demand on the system, agencies CPS hired to supervise parent-child visits ran out of money. When CPS didn't OK more funding, the agency, Aviva, which agency that handled visits for Stella had to lay off 32 workers, shut down supervised visits, and shut out Stella's visits with her daughter.
Craig Smith asked her: "What should people try to grasp about what's in your mind and in your heart right now?
"Stella": "I miss my daughter and I love her and I love my family and as the holidays get closer, especially right now, my heart breaks."
After spending about two weeks saying nothing had changed in how it pays for visitation programs, now CPS says a misunderstanding kept visitation programs from getting the money to keep going. CPS says it'll fix the problem but it seems getting visits back before Christmas would be more than a Christmas gift, it would be a Christmas miracle.
Aviva's director thinks it would probably be early or mid January.
Casa De Los Ninos had enough budget to keep visits going until the new money arrives.
Craig Smith asked Casa De Los Ninos director Susie Huhn: "Have they given you a reading as to when the system will crank back up again for all providers?"
Susie Huhn: "In the next couple of weeks is what we were told and I think at this point I'm cautiously optimistic. I think we're all kind of waiting to hear what our new capacity is. I don't think it'll be what it was but it's not going to be what we thought it would be, which was nothing."
Juvenile court judges have been concerned because these visits happen under their court orders and they haven't been happening. They've been meeting with CPS, court administrators, private agencies, and lawyers who handle child welfare cases, trying to get the visitations on track again. They're also in the dark about when visitations will be back to normal.