Letter to Governor Brewer Regarding the CPS Crisis
November 22, 2013
The Honorable Jan Brewer
Governor of Arizona
1700 W Washington
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Dear Governor Brewer,
The news of 6,000 reports of child abuse and neglect that went uninvestigated is alarming. And we agree that no excuses are acceptable. Since this practice of leaving reports uninvestigated has continued over several years from different units within the Department of Economic Security, it’s clear it was not one or two rogue employees, but a systemic policy. Director Clarence Carter is responsible for this lapse and we urge you to ask for his resignation.
For the past two years, you have made Child Protective Services (CPS) a policy priority with the appointment of the Child Safety Task Force and your support for additional investments for CPS staff and services. These efforts have not resulted in sufficient changes to safely manage the growing number of reports of child abuse and neglect:
- In addition to the 6,000 cases, more than 12,000 reports that came in during FY 2013 remained open with incomplete investigations as of September 2013.
- CPS did not respond within required timeframes to 42% of reports of abuse and neglect during fiscal year 2013 – including 1,572 Priority 1 reports.
- For several years, there have consistently been more than 10,000 “inactive” cases that haven’t been touched by staff for more than 60 days.
We call on you to assemble an independent crisis team of child welfare experts to manage the immediate emergency and to restructure operations for the coming months. This team would be comprised of national and state child welfare experts, and respected leaders from community organizations who work with abused and neglected children. Such a team could hit the ground running with workable solutions that strengthen families and connect children with safe and permanent homes.
The crisis team should examine all the uninvestigated, inactive and open cases, and get investigations completed ASAP on those that are the most dangerous. They should also develop a plan to respond to the less dangerous cases in the coming months. And they should recommend a restructuring plan to begin July 1, 2014 to handle incoming cases without creating new backlogs. Law enforcement and the Office of Child Welfare Investigations bring specific skills, but children need more than police and prosecutors, they also need protectors.
One key strategy to turn these trends around is to rebuild child care assistance and family support in the community so that families have places to turn before CPS is ever involved. We urge you to make these issues a priority in your budget proposal for fiscal year 2015.
We understand that the situation at CPS is exceedingly complex and difficult, but Arizonans are right to expect immediate action to keep children safer. In an effort to facilitate community dialogue, Children’s Action Alliance will be partnering with service organizations to hold a community forum on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 5:30pm at Memorial Hall in Steele Indian School Park. We invite you to join us to share your priorities for next steps and participate in the community conversation. I will be in contact with your staff to discuss your participation.
Thank you for your attention to this crisis.
Dana Wolfe Naimark
President and CEO