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Rep. Parker Proud Of Unexpected Passage Of DCS Reporting Bill

August 21, 2023

By Daniel Stefanksi |

The 2023 Arizona legislative session may be in the state’s rearview mirror, but one lawmaker is championing one of her bills that was signed into law earlier this summer.

Republican Representative Barbara Parker issued a press release last week, lauding the passage and signing of her bill, HB 2651, which “requires the Department of Child Safety to fulfill additional notification and reporting requirements relating to cases involving missing, abducted or runaway children.” The legislation was signed into law by Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs on June 19.

According to the release from Representative Parker, “ARS 8-810, the Child Safety statute, had no time frame requirement listed to report when a child in state custody went missing. In 2014, Congress passed the Preventing Sex Trafficking Act, which required states to develop policies and procedures for ‘expeditiously locating any child missing from foster care’ and ‘determining the child’s experiences while absent from care, including screening the child to determine if the child is a possible sex-trafficking victim.’ Tragically, audits from the federal Inspector General’s Office and the State Auditor General proved that Arizona’s Department of Child Safety, was not in compliance with either state or federal standards.”

“I did not expect to run this bill, but on January 21, 2023, just 12 days after I was sworn into office, two teen girls were found dead in a water-filled retention basin in my legislative district just blocks away from their group home,” said Representative Barbara Parker. “There was no media coverage of their disappearance until their bodies were found 15 days later. The community where they lived was never given the opportunity to look for them, and it was then that a constituent and foster care advocate, Anika Robinson, reached out to me regarding serious issues regarding the reporting standards of DCS.”

The bill first passed the House on March 1, 31-28 (with one member not voting). It was amended in the Senate and passed unanimously in that chamber on June 12, 30-0. The House concurred with the Senate’s changes, passing it on June 13, 56-2 (with two members not voting).

Representative Parker added, “The state should have done more for Sitlalli Avelar and Kamryn Meyers. The vulnerable teens’ disappearance could have been reported to the media in the first 24 hours. Both were on medication for behavioral needs and were at risk for sex trafficking or harm due to their acuity. The National Foster Youth Institute estimates that sixty percent of child sex- trafficking victims are often found to be in state-controlled foster care or child welfare systems. This new law will change this terrible statistic, requiring mandatory 24-hour reporting with detailed deliverables and protocols for each situation of missing, abducted, or runaway children, along with treatment, training, legislative audit oversight, and a detailed checklist explaining how all of this will be communicated to the proper authorities in a timely manner.”

The President of ASA Now and Jacob’s Mission Community Center, Anika Robinson, also weighed in on the success and significance of this legislation, saying, “This bill signing not only brings renewed hope to foster parents but also establishes a strong framework that acknowledges the significance of collaborative efforts between state agencies, foster parents, and the community in protecting and finding missing foster children. By prioritizing the prompt reporting of missing foster children in accordance with federal requirements, engaging the public through the media package, and having proper training for state personnel, Arizona sets an exemplary standard for other states to follow, reaffirming its commitment to the well-being and safety of foster children.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

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