Gov. Jan Brewer has signed a bill allowing the immediate hiring of 50 new Child Protective Services workers.
The state Legislature overwhelmingly approved Brewer's emergency request for $4.4 million Thursday afternoon and she signed it less than two hours later. She was surrounded by members of the Senate and House of Representatives from both parties in a rare example of bipartisan cooperation.
There was no opposition in either chamber.
"I applaud the legislators who have joined me in taking swift action on behalf of Arizona's abused and neglected children," Brewer said. "This bill is not a cure-all for the child safety problem in our state, but it will bring immediate help to the children who need it most. I intend to continue working closely with the Legislature and DES to strengthen Arizona's child safety system."
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said the legislature was able to "come together in a bipartisan manner with our Republican colleagues to ensure that CPS gets more staff."
Brewer also wants $67 million for 150 more CPS workers and for foster care and other new child protection spending during the budget year beginning July 1.
CPS has seen a 32 percent increase in abuse reports since 2009, and the number of children in out-of-home care has increased by 40 percent.
The agency saw big staffing cuts during the recession.
"It's rare for us to start out with such a big issue and pass it so quickly," Campbell said.
"Do we continue to see significant case loads? Yes, we do," said Clarence Carter, the director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security. He said the desperately needed case workers, which he calls the cavalry, may be hired as soon as six weeks from now.
"It is the most delicate of any work in public policy," he said. He also said they are working on removing some of the layers of bureaucracy within CPS.
The bill's author, Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, said the bad economy has had such an effect on our community, it could be partially to blame for the increased number in CPS calls. She said this bill is just a stepping stone.
"I'm happy with it because it's needed and it's needed now," she said. "Is it sufficient? No."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.
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