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Arizona DCS head responds to claims of failed foster care protections

(Flickr/Richard Leeming)
LISTEN: Greg McKay, Department of Child Safety Director

PHOENIX — The main department in Arizona that oversees the state’s foster care system has come under fire recently for allegedly failing to protect foster children from sexual abuse.

But Director Greg McKay, the head of the Arizona Department of Child Safety, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac and Gaydos that the department is doing the best it can to prevent these types of incidents.

McKay said when foster children are placed in homes, the department always checks the background of those who are living in the house through federal, local and state criminal history checks.

The department also searches the sex offender registry for any red flags of occupants in the house, he added.

But, McKay argued, issues can arise if a foster child is placed in a home of someone who often has other people staying with them for short periods of time and does not alert the department.

“If you allow someone to spend a night in your home and you don’t report that to DCS, we have no idea who is there,” McKay said.

“If a child says they’ve been victimized…that’s not something anyone would have known about,” he added.

Within the last month, two multimillion dollar claims — a precursor to a possible lawsuit — have been filed accusing the Department of Child Safety of failing to protect foster children from sexual abuse.

A $15 million legal claim was filed on Feb. 5 alleged that an 18-year-old foster child spent 12 years in the home of a man later convicted of child sex crimes.

Another $22 million claim filed on Feb. 10 claimed an 8-year-old girl was sexually abused in 2016 by Jose A. Egurrola, a registered sex offender who lived in the Phoenix-area homes of the girl’s foster parents.

While McKay said he could not speak specifically to any certain crime due to pending litigation, he said the department’s No. 1 job is to keep children safe.

“We obviously wouldn’t put someone in the home of a registered sex offender,” he said. “All we can do is what we do: Check backgrounds, do home studies, go through licensed agencies.

“Anytime something happens, our job is to ensure the process is done adequately.”

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