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Gov. Jan Brewer to discuss child welfare overhaul plan

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was expected to outline her
administration’s proposal to overhaul the state child welfare agency Thursday.

The governor was also expected to call the Legislature into special session to debate the proposal early next

Brewer’s office has called a press conference where she’s expected to make the
announcement. Her budget director and the new head of the child welfare division
she created in January will also be present.

Brewer created the agency after revelations late last year that more than 6,500
abuse and neglect reports phoned into the agency’s child abuse hotline were
closed without investigation.

A panel Brewer created that includes lawmakers, new agency chief Charles
Flanagan, Brewer’s chief of staff and others who worked for months on
legislation to remake the former Child Protective Services department.

Brewer was given about $59 million in additional funding for the agency for the
coming budget year but she wants more.

Five senior Arizona child welfare employees were fired last month for their
role in executing a plan to deal with an overwhelmed staffed by closing cases
after a paper review. A senior administrator in the Department of Economic
Security, formerly CPS’ parent agency, also was fired.

Flanagan cited a lack of policies and procedures by the agency workers that led
to illegal actions. The five fired CPS workers said they were following orders
and were made scapegoats for an agency struggling to deal with soaring workloads
and abandoned by the governor and Legislature.

Outlines of the proposal circulating among lawmakers in recent weeks show the
new agency is designed to be more transparent as it investigates abuse and
neglect reports, promotes child safety and family reunification or other
permanent placement.

Provisions include a new data system that will allow workers to track
individual cases, authority to contract out services and retain outside lawyers
to advise the director. The proposed legislation also creates an inspections
bureau to ensure that internal policies are followed, and lays out specific
guidelines for responding to hotline complaints to avoid a repeat of the problem
that prompted Brewer to “abolish CPS as we know it.”


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