BENSON — The Arizona Department of Child Safety has a new facility in Benson.
Located at 443 W. Fourth St. in the building that once housed Spur Western Wear, the newly remodeled space has offices for caseworkers, a conference room, a reception area and a private place where parents and children can visit.
“The primary goal of DCS is to protect children when allegations of abuse or neglect are reported,” said Monica McDonough, DCS program manager who oversees all of Cochise County, with offices in Benson, Douglas and two in Sierra Vista. “The Department of Child Safety investigates and assesses reports of child abuse and neglect in the community.”
If someone is concerned that a child is being abused or neglected, they can call the DCS hotline and report the concern, McDonough said.
“If it meets the criteria, the call generates a report to a local area, depending on where the family resides. We receive that report and make contact with the children, parents and family.”
DCS will conduct interviews and make an assessment as to whether the children are safe, as well as if there is any indication that there was abuse or neglect, McDonough said.
The DCS program strives to balance the legal rights of parents and the needs and rights of children to live in a safe and healthy environment.
“Our program’s primary focus is to work with families who come to our attention because of concerns for the children’s well being,” McDonough said. “We respond by investigating and assessing the concerns, and we service the families based on our findings.”
There are times when DCS works with law enforcement, in cases where investigations uncover criminal conduct. In situations where a report alleges criminal conduct, DCS will coordinate its investigation with law enforcement.
“Depending on the needs of the family and our assessment, we sometimes provide voluntary services such as counseling in the home, parenting services, or we will link families with behavioral health services,” McDonough said. “We also connect families with other resources as needed.
There are times when children are removed from their home because the assessment reveals the child needs protective services.
“On those occasions, we continue to manage the case by providing services and support until it’s time to reunite the children with their parents,” McDonough said.
The DCS office in Benson covers St. David, Dragoon, Pomerene, Willcox, Bowie and San Simone.
There are six DCS specialists, or case managers and investigators, two support staff and a supervisor, Clare McGuire.
Prior to moving into the new location, DCS shared a facility with the Department of Economic Security office in Benson at 595 S. Dragoon St. It was a much smaller facility where space was shared with three DES agencies, McDonough said.
“This facility is just for the Department of Child Safety, so it gives us much more space for privacy and room to accommodate the families we serve,” she said. “It’s a huge improvement from our previous location.”
DCS moved into its new building on April 12, and held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, making the move official.
The building has been completely remodeled inside, making way for offices, a conference room and a visitation room for children and parents during supervised visits. The visitation room is filled with children’s books, toys and stuffed animals and inviting furniture, giving it a comfortable, “homey” feel.
There also is an area for DCS Child Safety Specialists, case managers and investigators.
Another quiet space is designed for children who have been removed from their parents. The room provides a temporary, private place for children until they can be united with a family member or other arrangements are made.
The goal of DCS is to return children who have been removed from their parents to a safe and permanent home. While Child Safety Specialists work diligently with families to reunite them as quickly as possible, they often continue to provide needed services for a period of time after reunification has occurred.
DCS helps families work toward reunification by providing services they may need. Some of those include help in getting food, housing, clothing and medical care, counseling, parenting classes, job training, transportation and much more.