Advocate: Questions Remain on CPS Plan for Uninvestigated Cases
PHOENIX - The state's welfare department has come up with a plan to deal with more than 6,000 cases alleging child abuse and neglect that Child Protective Services failed to investigate.
Cases would be screened by next week, and those needing full investigations would be finished by Jan. 31. The strategy is getting mixed reviews.
Kids' advocate Dana Naimark, president of Children's Action Alliance, said the work plan is a good start but questions how it's all going to work given the agency's limited resources.
"Who's doing the initial review of these cases? Who's deciding which ones need a full investigation? And how are they pulling in the other staff that they identify who already have current workloads and are already stretched thin?" she said. "What happens to their current cases?"
Naimark said letting thousands of abuse and neglect reports pile up represents "a failure of leadership and a system failure." Some lawmakers are urging a cautious approach, while others are calling for immediate reforms, hiring more caseworkers and perhaps spinning off CPS into a separate agency.
Naimark said CPS needs a system of clear criteria for prioritizing the abuse and neglect reports that come in.
"Getting urgent investigations done on the urgent reports," she said, "and then we need a plan for a less urgent response to the other types of cases."
Naimark said the CPS workload could be reduced while encouraging healthier children and families if lawmakers restore funding for the social safety net she said was shredded during the recession.
"So that fewer families ever need CPS; so that we have affordable child care, we have substance-abuse treatment, we have help for domestic violence victims; we have mentoring and coaching for parents who are struggling," she said.
Naimark's organization has called for the resignation of Department of Economic Security director Clarence Carter, who oversees CPS. Naimark said they stand by that call.
"He should be held accountable," she said. "This was under his leadership. It was a system failure that left kids in danger, there's no doubt about that. And we think he should be held accountable and we should move forward with different leadership."
Naimark said CPS failed to follow its own written procedures which required an in-depth assessment of every report of child abuse or neglect.