ARIZONA NEWS

Flanagan says inspections, transparency are top priorities for new child protection bureau

Jan 15, 2014, 7:07 PM | Updated: 7:07 pm

LISTEN: Charles Flanagan - Director of the Division of Child and Family Services

PHOENIX — Admitting that Arizona’s Child Protective Services is “broken” during her State of the State address on Monday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer abolished the agency, creating a new one in its place.

The new division, dubbed Child Safety and Family Services, will be run by Charles Flanagan, former Juvenile Corrections Director, pending legislative approval.

Flanagan spoke with 92.3 KTAR’s Mac and Gaydos on Tuesday afternoon regarding what will make the new department different from CPS and how soon the changes will take effect.

Flanagan admitted that Child Safety and Family Services needs a lot of work to get back on track, but this new step in the right direction will help them “gain the momentum to create the environment that would prevent something like the not-investigated cases from ever happening again and to solve the problems that are, quite frankly, myriad and span many years with CPS.”

Flanagan has already taken command in his new role, making sure the CARE team Brewer put in place to monitor CPS continues to review uninvestigated cases. He has also reached out to those who will be affected most by the new department.

“We’ve been to Yuma, to Tucson, here in Phoenix,” Flanagan said. “We’ve met with providers all over the state, we’ve met with foster parents, we’ve met with employees through survey and many other mechanisms, and we’re putting together a list of things that need to happen that we can implement immediately and others, such as the one that the governor has set before the Legislature that require legislative action.”

Flanagan’s second step in ensuring uninvestigated cases never happen again? Transparency within the department.

“[W]e will achieve transparency,” Flanagan explained. “We will achieve compliance with the law, we will achieve a system that is efficient and effective and we hope to achieve, through working with legislation and with stakeholders, a statute that clearly defines what’s expected of the employees of CPS and that will then define the policies that we follow.”

Part of Flanagan’s transparency plan is to install an inspections process that ultimately answers to him.

“I intend to implement an inspections process that is overseen only by the director of the agency and is not influenced by another entity within the agency or the people in the chain of command,” Flanagan said. “So, having an inspections bureau that reports to me, we’ll be able to ensure policy compliance, as well as statutory compliance.”

Another big problem with the old CPS was the ratio of cases to workers, leaving the caseworkers that hadn’t abandoned the agency to be severely overworked.

“This is an enormously large organization, and in particular right now, what’s happened is there are case workers, there are investigators in the field that are carrying caseloads that are nearly double what should be carried,” Flanagan explained.

Brewer will release the budget on Friday, outlining what the specific needs are for the new department.

“We definitely know how many case workers we need, we know what resources we need to support them,” Flanagan said. “We know that the caseloads have to be reasonable and have to be approached in a way that will ensure that these children are safe.”

But even if the Legislature approves the new division and budget allotments, Flanagan said even if he had all the budget in the world, it is still transparency that is the key to the department’s success, not money.

“Having the resources is not the answer,” Flanagan asserted. “The answer is making sure that we are completely transparent and that the Legislature and the people in Arizona know what that money is being spent for and what determines what that money is being used for will be the caseloads, will be the work that we have to do.”

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Flanagan says inspections, transparency are top priorities for new child protection bureau