Dept. of Child Safety – the new CPS

May 30, 2014 by  

The Department of Child Safety is officially separate from the huge DES bureaucracy it had been part of.  That is progress.

The bill is a product of months of work among a diverse group, of which I am honored to have had a part, to create what we all hope will be a new and positive beginning for helping safeguard abused children in the state.

Here are the bill’s main provisions: 

  • It separates the agency & defines the mission. This has been recommended by past Child Welfare task forces since 2003, when the “In Harm’s Way” report, written by victim’s rights advocates called for creating a new state agency with a refocused mission placing protection of children as the top priority. Doing such is a huge (and expensive) task, which is why it hasn’t been done before this.
  • It codifies guidance for the investigations, hotline functions – and training criterion for the case managers.
  • It allows for privatization of all agency functions.
  • It places child safety above reunification.   Before, the courts HAD to move forward on reunification efforts even when it was clear it would be unrealistic as well as unsafe for a child.  Now they have a choice under certain circumstances.
  • It sets expectations for the relevant data that the new data system will collect and be able to report out to the independent entities charged with overseeing that data.
  • Oversight.  Several entities are in place to review DCS and keep it accountable – both internally and externally.

Most of the process details will be worked out in the implementation though, so we should keep Director Flanagan – and Greg McKay – who is in charge of OCWI, the entity in charge of investigations of criminal cases, in our prayers.

I have no illusions that this bill is the sole agent of change – but there is no question that Director Flanagan is experienced, passionate and committed to his charge – so I am hopeful that a culture change is coming and the agency will do better for children in harm’s way.

Do I think this bill is perfect?  It is not.  Nor does it address all of the troubling issues we are concerned about.

And what about the money? A total of $845 million for the agency in FY 15 was – and still is – sticker shock to all of us – adding $60 million to the $55 we just added only a month ago.  And despite intense legislative efforts to obtain more concrete benchmarks as the funding is spent – we simply didn’t have the votes for them – nor support from the 9th floor.

I AM gratified that, per the previous budget bill we passed in April, significant funding remains dedicated to addressing the substance abuse that is associated with over 80% of the neglect cases – which is going to be a huge factor in reducing cases on the front end.

As the new policies are implemented, people hired and overseers engaged, it will be obvious to see soon enough if we charted the proper course.  We will have opportunity in future sessions to address the work left undone.  So patience is the watchword.

Nevertheless, it’s a beginning – and a good one.  Again, I am honored to have had a part in the bill’s development, but also humbled by the massive undertaking of creating the legislative response to a terrible situation.  Government can never fix the atrocities humans are capable of inflicting upon one another, but hopefully we can do better in responding to them and not making things worse for children.

Read additional info:

AZ Republic:  Experts caution new child safety agency will take time

Doubts remain – Robert Robb writes:  Suspension of critical thinking about CPS reform

AZ Republic – includes a photo of Sen. Barto: Dispute over staff funding slows child-welfare session 

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Comments

One Response to “Dept. of Child Safety – the new CPS”
  1. What about safeguarding neglected children? Don’t they make up the vast majority of case reported?

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