Arizona foster parents decry email asking them to 'do more'

PHOENIX (AP) – An email sent by the director of Arizona's child-welfare system to licensed foster parents has offended some of the parents it meant to inspire.

Some foster parents claim they've been trying to do exactly what they were asked to do in the email – consider taking in older children – but haven't been able to because the very same department keeps shutting them down, The Arizona Republic reported.

"I thought there was a guilty tone, like we foster parents aren't doing enough," said Stacy Bradley, a parent who is caring for three foster children. "You're saying you need us; we're saying we're here. Where is the breakdown?"

Department of Child Safety Director Greg McKay asked foster parents to "expand their horizons" and "do more" in the email he sent. He asked the families to consider providing a home for children ages 7 and up. He said older children are not "damaged goods. ... They have the same basic human needs and emotions as everyone else."

But foster parents on social media claim they've asked for older children, but haven't been replied to.

Dawn Jennings said she had an open bed for a girl between the ages of 6 and 13 for six months, but couldn't get the department's approval for a placement.

"My licensing worker was calling me almost every week with kids," she said, referring to the agency that serves as go-between for foster parents and the department. "You would think if the need for these kids was so great, DCS would be calling them back."

The department offered a number of reasons why a willing foster home might not result in an automatic placement of an older child currently in a group home.

Department spokesman Darren DaRonco wrote in the statement that an open investigation of a foster home would preclude any more placements. A family could also have restrictions on who it would accept, or it may have had a problem with a certain age group that would make it difficult to place a child of similar age in the home, DaRonco wrote. And kids age 12 and up have a say in their placement and might resist moving to a foster home if it takes them away from the school they have been attending, the department stated.

The department's communications director, Cynthia Weiss, said more than 100 responses to the email from foster parents were positive, with the responding parents saying they will welcome older children.

"If the Director's letter places one child into a foster home, we will consider the effort a success," the department stated.