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Citizen panel aims to support advances in child welfare

Desaray Klimenko
January 29, 2015

Desaray Klimenko grew up in the child welfare system until she aged out. Now, pursuing her master’s in social work at Arizona State University, Klimenko wants to be a part of the solution and help support the well-being of children.

“The system needs improvement, and this is a way I can give back and help with change,” she says.

While pursuing her degree, Klimenko is also part of the Arizona Citizen Review Panel program. She works alongside volunteers from a variety of sectors – education, law enforcement, health care, government and social service – to identify strategies that improve outcomes for children and engage the broader child welfare community.

“It’s empowering to see so many different people from so many different areas come together,” she says.

Charles Flanagan, director of the Department of Child Safety, and Chad Campbell, deputy director, have engaged in four meetings with the Citizen Review Panels, offering a two-way opportunity for the agency and panel members to get to know each other.

“There are huge challenges but they can be fixed,” Flanagan said. He also says the agency recognizes that they cannot do it alone.

Flanagan told the panel that “we can create systemic change.”

He noted changes already in motion, from staffing to technology in the field, designed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency.

The agency is also looking at early intervention as part of its mission to improve prevention, which ties in with one of the Citizen Review Panel’s goals to create collaborative connections between the agency and other stakeholders.

Established in 1999 as part of a federal mandate in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, Arizona has three regional Citizen Review Panels. In addition to Phoenix, panels are located in Tucson and Flagstaff. Members represent the community and meet regularly to review policies, procedures and develop an annual report.

The panel is administered by the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy in the School of Social Work, part of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions at ASU.