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Updated Dec 16, 2013 - 7:23 pm

CPS oversight panel updated on botched CPS reports

PHOENIX — A review of more than 6,500 child abuse and neglect reports has
found more than one-sixth of the children were involved in a subsequent case
overseen by Arizona’s child welfare agency, the Legislature’s child protective
services oversight committee was told Monday.

Just two weeks into a review by an independent team appointed by Gov. Jan
Brewer, 12 law enforcement agencies are now helping check on children the team’s
workers determine might be at risk, Charles Flanagan, who leads the team, told
the committee.

More than 175 Child Protective Services workers are assigned at least part time
to the team, which is trying to work through the backlog of ignored cases by the
end of January.

A separate Arizona Department of Public Safety investigation is looking at how
and why the reports weren’t investigated. DPS Director Robert Halliday told the
committee that the administrative investigation is growing more complex and he
doesn’t know when it will be complete.

Halliday did surprise some when he said his report would go directly to the
Department of Economic Security and not be made public. DES Director Clarence
Carter, whose agency oversees Child Protective Services, then promised to hand
it over immediately.

“Within 24 hours of my receipt of the report I will make it available to the
committee _ in the form in which it was given to us,” Carter said.

Brewer’s spokesman, Andrew Wilder, later said that it may take much longer to
review the DPS report and remove sensitive material.

The state’s Child Protective Services agency has been in the spotlight since
late last month, when Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter
revealed that thousands of cases requiring investigation had instead been closed
in recent years.

Five senior CPS workers are on leave as an investigation into who authorized
the action is conducted. The agency has declined to name them.

Brewer promised again Monday that people will be held accountable for the
lapses, eventually.

“I don’t think anyone in the public would want us to go in there and start
rolling heads, if you will, because we thought maybe that might be the person,”
she told reporters at an unrelated event. “You don’t convict anybody until you
have the records and you have the information.”

Flanagan, who normally runs the state’ juvenile corrections department, said
the review so far has shown that 6,552 reports were not investigated between
2009 and 2013, most in the past two years. Two were also discovered from years
earlier, raising questions that there may be other previous cases.

The problems were discovered by the head of a separate investigative team
assigned to review criminal child abuse cases. Gregory McKay wrote in a memo to
Brewer last month that it appears the illegal closures began in 2009, were
suspended, briefly revived in 2010 and then embraced by a new team designed to
pre-screen reports to cut case worker overload.

By law, reports must be investigated, so one of the major goals of both the DPS
probe and Flanagan’s is to determine how the practice began and prevent a

“One of the problems when you have a system as large as this is that if you
have people with the ability to override policy or law you end up with a
situation like this,” Flanagan said.


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