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Arizona Department of Child Safety disbands citizen oversight panel

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PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Child Safety said it has disbanded a citizen-run panel that was created to ensure an outside perspective on the agency’s child protection policies.

According to Darren DaRonco, a spokesman with DCS, the decision to disband the Citizen Review Panel was made to “consolidate as many oversight and advisory bodies that we can, while maintaining efficacy and statutory compliance.”

DaRonco said the agency recently created a position to manage its 30 panels and committees, such as the Community Advisory Committee and the Young Adult Advisory Panel.

“We believe one person within DCS managing the other panels and committees would be more efficient,” he said.

Members of the Citizen Review Panel are encouraged to “continue providing input to the department through the many committees and other means available to them,” DaRonco said.

Opponents of the move said they fear it will further insulate the agency from outside oversight, but experts argued that it is not unusual for the citizen panels to be run by the agency they were created to advise.

The panels in Arizona have always been coordinated through a group outside the agency. Initially it was the state Department of Health Services. It later moved to Arizona State University’s School of Social Work.

The Arizona Department of Child Safety was created in May 2014 during a special legislative session after current Director Greg McKay blew the whistle on the agency for its failure to investigate nearly 7,000 cases.

KTAR News’ Corbin Carson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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