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Updated Dec 11, 2013 - 4:50 pm

Detective’s memo to Gov. Brewer set off latest CPS crisis

PHOENIX — A scathing memo to Gov. Jan Brewer from the Phoenix police
detective overseeing criminal investigations at Arizona’s Child Protective
Services department laid bare the latest crisis at the agency.

The Nov. 12 memo from Gregory McKay about his discovery of thousands of
uninvestigated child abuse and neglect reports concluded that the implication is
“clearly one of failed child safety and protection multiplied by 5,000.”

The memo got the attention McKay intended: Department of Economic Security
Director Clarence Carter revealed the problems the next week, five senior CPS
workers were put on leave, and Brewer created an outside team to ensure that
what has grown to more than 6,550 uninvestigated cases are appropriately
handled.

McKay had joined Carter to help brief reporters on his findings, but the memo
he wrote reveals for the first time the depth of his concern and his demand for
urgent action. The memo was first revealed by The Arizona Republic and obtained
by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

“This needs to stop IMMEDIATELY,” McKay wrote in a conclusion titled
“Solution/Immediate Action Required.”

Meanwhile Wednesday, the new team Brewer appointed reported that more than
1,200 of the cases were now assigned to social workers. The group dubbed the
“CARE” team also verified that more than 550 reports from the past four years
had now received responses, and nearly 200 children have been visited by police
or social workers.

The team created 10 days ago is reassessing all the reports that were
previously reviewed by CPS. Police in Flagstaff, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe and
Phoenix are sending officers to see some of the children identified in the
reports.

The problem of closing cases after a brief paper review began in 2009, McKay
said last month, as a way to cut out reports that were overburdening
caseworkers. The practice was abandoned the following year, revived in 2011 and
then embraced by a new team assigned to triage incoming cases last year. The
vast majority of the reports closed without investigations have come in the past
20 months.

Brewer’s spokesman, Andrew Wilder, said the memo sparked immediate action once
it reached her office.

“As soon as we had it, the governor’s office acted immediately to see that the
practice … was ceased, that we gathered and analyzed all facts and put a plan
in place to ensure the safety of each child,” Wilder said. “That was done that
day _ it began right then.”

CPS caseworkers completed an initial review of the 6,554 closed cases last
week, finding about 3,600 that require a full investigation.

The new team of outsiders named by Brewer to oversee those investigations is
re-reviewing all the work done by CPS after discovering that some of the workers
involved had previously been on the team that initially closed the reports. The
team, led by Juvenile Corrections Director Charles Flanagan, is also receiving
help from local police agencies that are assisting CPS in checking out reports
where the child may still in danger.

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