Parents scramble for answers from CPS caseworkers now charged with supervising visitations
Reporter: Marcelino Benito
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - How would you feel if you didn't know when you'd see your kids again? It's hard for any parent to imagine. But it's what thousands of families here in Pima County are going through right now. Their supervised visits are up in the air now that 11 local agencies stopped visitation services. What's worse: these agencies tell 9OYS CPS told them it's all about money.
Since the news broke, parents have been working to reach their CPS caseworkers. Margarita Verdugo has been working the phones all day looking for answers.
"She said by today, but she hasn't called me back today," Verdugo said.
She like thousands of mothers in Pima County still don't know when they'll see their kids again.
"I don't know how they're doing or if they're worried," she said as she choked back tears. "I don't like them to worry."
As 9OYS reported Thursday night, Aviva was forced to stop its supervised visits. That's because they say CPS told them the money's not there. Friday afternoon, CPS stood its ground in a phone interview with KGUN 9'S Craig Smith.
"Nothing has changed here," Stacy Reinstein, Deputy Director of the Child Welfare Program said. "We are just closely monitoring and assessing when those services are needed so families served will benefit from those services."
But if that's the case, 9OYS wants to know why Verdugo is in tears? Why did Aviva's visit supervisors lose their jobs? Why can't Verdugo get through to her caseworker?
"Everybody involved in this is very confused," she said. "It's all up in the air, nobody knows what's going to happen."
Cathy Tullgren says she knows what's going to happen. She's a former visit supervisor who ran Aviva's program for six years.
9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito asked, "You're saying it's humanly possible for them to do it?" She replied, "Absolutely. It is logistically impossible for cases managers to add that to their responsibilities. There's no way they can do it."
But CPS says they can.
"We still have the responsibility to do those things and we will do those things," Child Welfare Administrator Deb Harper said.
The question no one can answer is how? How will CPS handle all these visits on their own. Tullgren says delaying visits can have a harmful impact on both the child and the parent.
"We need to look out for the best interest of kids which is not to put them on the back-burner and forget they need to see their parents," Tullgren said.
For now, Verdugo feels she is on the back-burner. A court order says she needs to see her kids twice a week. Yet tonight, she can't see how that's going to happen.
Benito asked Verdugo if she's confident her caseworker can handle setting up her visitations. She replied, "No not at all. They are overwhelmed with cases. They are very overloaded, and I know I'm not the only one dealing with CPS."
Now lost in all of this is the reality a lot of people may lose their jobs. These 11 agencies including Aviva and Casa de Los Ninos will have to sort through this mess in the coming days.