Arizona DCS asks courts to pause child welfare trials following system error

Aug 22, 2023, 10:38 AM

girl holds rolled up bill in court room...

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Child Safety is asking the courts to pause all child welfare cases for two weeks because case files may be incomplete.

The state Attorney General’s Office made the request Monday on behalf of DCS after the agency discovered a flaw in its data management system.

The error could have impacted at least 3,800 juvenile dependency cases, with 139 of them being finalized adoptions, DCS said.

DCS Director David Lujan told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday only one or two documents may have been undisclosed in the cases in question, and the nature of those documents are unlikely to change the outcome.

“So I don’t think you’re going to see any changes in outcome,” he said. “We just think it’s important that we disclose the documents, when we found them, and that all parties have access to them, as they should.”

What was the issue with DCS’ data management system?

The DCS data management system is called Guardian. It was launched in February 2021 with a portal to allow providers, such as social workers, to upload their reports.

However, the system was set up in a way that documents wouldn’t automatically feed into particular case files, Lujan explained. Instead, they had to be reviewed, then directed into the right case file.

“By setting it up that way, what happened is, over time, it created a significant backlog of documents — close to 95,000 documents — that did not get into case files. That was brought to my attention last week,” Lujan said.

The system has since been changed to allow documents to be placed into the proper case files, allowing for full disclosure to the courts and attorneys involved in cases, he said.

How is the governor’s office responding to the error in the system?

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs said that she is devastated for those who may have been affected by the error.

“The mistakes made are unacceptable, and I am devastated for any family and child who may have been affected,” Hobbs said in a press release. “Moving forward, my administration will do everything in its power to fix this egregious error.”

All documents in closed cases that ended in any outcome other than family reunification will be reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office, according to the release.

The AG’s office will also determine if an undisclosed document could have impacted the outcome of the case.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nick Sadowski contributed to this report.

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Arizona DCS asks courts to pause child welfare trials following system error