About four years ago, I moved to Arizona.  And I won’t lie, I moved here from Missouri for a guy. Even though the relationship didn’t last and he moved back to Missouri.  I continue to live here.   I love Arizona; from the weather (ok not the summer but the other seasons) to the hiking to the great nightlife and restaurants.  What’s not to love about this state?

While there’s a lot of glitz and glam, I believe this facade only hides some big issues this state faces.  Everyone hopes that the recession will pass, Arizona will get out of this economic slump and become a thriving and bustling state.  But this seems like a “pie in the sky dream” when Arizona is considered one of the worst states in the nation suffering right now.

While politicians debate about how to balance a nearly $2 billion deficit through exploring budget cuts and increasing taxes, real children and families are hurting.  As I work to help raise awareness and funding for a children’s welfare organization, I constantly question the measures taking place to balance the budget.  Is it in the best interest of ALL who live in Arizona?

I would like to think that the state and community I live in cares about the most vulnerable children and families in our community, but I’m consistently disappointed by decisions made by lawmakers.  Today Gov. Janet Brewer signed a package to cut $300 million in state spending to reduce the budget deficit.  Through this package, DES is facing yet another significant cut.  This time it’s $155 million dollars.  Education is facing another cut of $144 million.  My concern lies within how our state continues to operate essential human and educational services after imposing more budget cuts.  Also, is cutting programs that help children and families the only way to balance the budget ?

When the government makes cuts, it’s not a gradual process.  It’s quick and swift, and action takes place immediately. It takes a lot of time for programs and services to recover from these hits.  Time human services and education in Arizona has not been afforded.  While some would say that the current human services and educational system lack skilled workers, proper management and leadership, one has to wonder can programs be adequately operated and maintained when resources and funding continues to be cut?  Just because budgets are cut and programs and services are reduced or eliminated, that doesn’t mean these issues and/or people go away.  It just adds to the growing problems and increasing number of struggling children and families in our community.

Many people feel that in order to resolve all the problems Arizona faces, we need to stimulate the state’s economy.  While I agree that’s part of the resolution I don’t think it’s the end all be all to save Arizona from total despair.  We all want  businesses to move and remain in Arizona.  Economic packages are being created to try and stimulate our economy. But is that enough of an incentive to move or live in this state?

Great economic package helps to bring business here, but who actually moves to this state?  People.  Would you want to move to a state that actively does not support families?  The actions taken by the state makes it evident to me they don’t support families.   If I had kids, I would not want to send them to schools in this state, especially with the current budget cuts.  Unemployment, loss of housing, substance abuse, untreated mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence will continue to run rampant with an inadequate human services system.  And at this point, can we truly rely on nonprofits to totally pick up the slack.  They too are suffering with losses in government funding and flat and waning charitable giving. 

As a fundraiser, I constantly think about the future.  My organization has been hit by cuts in government funding.  We struggle day to day on how we are going to make up these losses and it’s been a real challenge to fundraise.  While I and my co-workers hope the economy will turn around and our government will rebuild the educational and human services system, some of  more experienced co-workers I know seem to think it won’t make a difference.  The tell me, “Look at what happened to education.  This is a issue that hits everyone.  They rallied, signed letters and talked to politicians, yet they cut education even more.  If they are willing to do that to education, they won’t think twice about cutting human services.  They just don’t care.”

It’s unacceptable to me that Arizona is ranked 40th (out of 50 states) for overall children’s well-being (Kidscount 2009).  We have some of the highest teen pregnancy, dropout birth and death rates in the nation.  The list of very disappointing statistics for Arizona children and families goes on and on.  Despite these dismal facts and statistics,  I don’t agree with my co-workers.  I believe there is hope and if we work together as a community we can change these outcomes.  Call me an optimist, but I belive something can be done.  I’m ready and willing to work for a healthy, strong and thriving Arizona.  Are you?

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