Arizona Child Protective Services Often Unable to Help Homeless Children

A recent headline reported that there are now 25,000 homeless children in the Arizona public school system.

We wondered -- after reading in the Arizona Republic that this number of homeless kids is equivalent to the population of Fountain Hills -- shouldn't Child Protective Services step in?

Apparently not. Even though the CPS Web site clearly defines children "without adequate clothing, food, or shelter" as neglected and eligible for state care, children living with their families on street corners or park benches aren't always getting taken into state custody.

Why? CPS spokesman Steve Meissner says it's because kids are often kept in the custody of families who "still love" them .

"Living on the street is clearly not the best environment for a child," said Meissner, "but is it best for the family and child if the child is taken away due to hard times?

Here's another theory: CPS can't deal with the problem, so officials are ignoring it.

"A lot of times, people who have become homeless want to take care of children, but they just can't," said Sean Schubert, a liaison for homeless children at the Peoria Unified School district. "They may have to seek state assistance. Unfortunately, CPS is inundated."

Schubert tries to place families in homeless shelters or transitional homes, "but it's so difficult because shelters are overwhelmed," she says.

Luckily, some "homeless" children aren't in immediate danger: The McKinney Vento Homelessness Assistance Act also classifies children whose families live in RV parks or are forced to move in with relatives as "homeless."

As for the families living at bus stops? Looks like their kids are out just of luck.

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Malia Politzer
Contact: Malia Politzer