The Attorney General's Office provides comprehensive legal representation to the Department of Economic Security on behalf of abused and neglected children and in support of Child Protective Services' efforts to protect children, preserve families and achieve permanency for Arizona's kids. These cases are known as dependency cases and are heard before juvenile court judges.
The attorneys and staff of this Section of the Attorney General's Office provide legal representation in all 15 counties with offices in Flagstaff, Kingman, Mesa, Phoenix, Prescott, Safford, Sierra Vista, Tucson and Yuma.
In 2000, the Arizona Legislature awarded CERF funds to the Attorney General's Office to focus on reducing the dependency caseload that was at approximately 6,000 in January 1, 1999. With those funds, the Attorney General's Office was able to dismiss almost 4,000 of the original 6,000 targeted cases and decrease the average Assistant Attorney General caseload from 200 cases to 100 cases.
Unfortunately, from 2000 to the present, the CERF funds depleted and children entering the State's foster care system has increased steadily each year. The average caseload per Assistant Attorney General increased back up to 145 cases by January 2003. High dependency caseloads delay placing foster children in permanent homes.
In the last legislative session, the legislature appropriated $4 million in General Fund revenue to hire 30 attorneys plus staff support necessary to refocus on achieving permanency faster for Arizona's dependent children. Since June 1, 2004 the Attorney General's Office has hired 63% of these positions. The Attorney General's Office expects to have all of the positions filled and caseloads reduced down to 85 cases per Assistant Attorney General by January 2005. The ABA standard caseload for attorneys representing agencies in child protection proceedings is 60 cases.
In addition, the Attorney General’s Office is actively involved in the Department’s reform efforts initiated Governor Napolitano through the Special Legislative Session in Fall, 2003.