Once admitted into the foster care system, Lake Havasu City children could end up anywhere beds are available – whether in Kingman, Bullhead City, or as far away as Prescott. The only way for them to stay in Havasu, according to the Arizona’s Children Association, is if there are enough Havasu foster homes to care for them.
As of July, there were 3,988 foster homes statewide, according to the Arizona Department of Child Safety, compared to almost 9,700 children who entered the foster care system last fiscal year. About 40% of those children were adopted by relatives, and 41% entered Arizona foster homes. Although the number of children entering foster care has declined since 2017, so has the number of homes for foster children, which might make an already difficult process even more difficult for children.
Laura Butcher is the Resource Family Program Director for Havasu’s ACA branch office. In her experience, the process families go through to become licensed for foster care can be a long and difficult one. The need for foster families and foster homes in Havasu, however, remains abundant.
“Although kids might be removed from their parents in Lake Havasu City, it doesn’t mean they’ll stay in Lake Havasu City,” Butcher said. “It can be difficult for kids, with the amount of challenges they have to experience. The more foster families we can get in the community, the more Havasu kids will get to stay in their community.”
The Arizona’s Children Association is a non-profit agency contracted by the Department of Child Safety to license homes for foster care, kinship foster care, therapeutic intervention and respite care. The organization is primarily responsible for certifying foster homes and foster families throughout Mohave County.
Obtaining licensing as a foster home, however, can be a difficult and lengthy process. According to DCS statistics, licensing can take an average of more than five months to obtain. Last year, about 1,444 new licenses were issued, while more than 2,000 foster care licenses were terminated.
“Families definitely come to us with interest,” Butcher said. “Because it’s a lengthy process, it can be challenging for families facing potential barriers. But there are a lot of wonderful foster families in Havasu.”
The Department of Child Safety may choose to remove a child from his or her parents or legal guardians for reasons including neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse or sexual abuse. According to DCS records, the agency has received 8,310 such reports since July; about 5,813 of which are still under investigation.
According to Mohave Superior Court Judge Steve Moss, there are 330 foster children in Mohave County, and 47 foster children in Havasu. The ultimate goal of the foster care system is to reunite those children with their families, and the court works with a host of state agencies to reach that outcome.
“Lake Havasu City is blessed to have fewer of these cases than in the Kingman and Bullhead City areas,” Moss said. “Some of these cases can be very unpleasant … but in cases where the parent or guardian can reform their behavior and resume a normal parent-child relationship … it’s an extremely good feeling. There are a whole lot of services the state offers to parents – employment assistance, food assistance, counseling services ... We don’t have any interest in severing parents’ rights.”
As traumatic as the separation of children from their families may be, however, Butcher says the system has never been to make that separation permanent.
“The ultimate goal of the foster system is to help children return to their original families,” Butcher said. “If reunion is determined to be the best outcome, then we consider it a success.”
For more information about licensing as a foster caregiver, contact the Arizona’s Children Association at 928-466-6119, or visit www.arizonaschildren.org.
The Arizona’s Children Association hosts a foster care and adoption orientation on the first Tuesday of every month, at 6 p.m., at 1407 N. McCulloch Blvd.