Arizona CPS update: Navajo County Sheriff's Office double checking Child Protective Services cases

The Najavo County Sheriff's Office is taking action to make sure victims of child abuse and neglect don't slip through the cracks.

Months before Child Protective Services revealed thousands of cases were never investigated, the sheriff's office decided to do its own homework on calls that came into CPS.

"You can't rely on someone else to make sure something is getting done when it comes to the health and safety of our children," said Chief Deputy James Molesa with the NCSO.

So for the children of Navajo County, Molesa took protection into his own hands. When he joined the sheriff's office last January, he noticed something wrong with the files.

"I said 'what do you do with these?' He said 'we just keep them on file,'" said Molesa.

Prior to Molesa joining, the sheriff's office would just keep CPS calls on file and would not conduct its own investigation.

But that changed in February. Deputies are now looking at every summary that comes in from the calls reported to the CPS hotline. These are just the calls that fall in the county's jurisdiction. Up until February, deputies knew what the complaint was about, but it wasn't clear if a caseworker had gone by to check on the children involved in each case.

"Was something actually getting done? Do we know if that case got assigned? Do we know if that child was addressed?" said Molesa. "I was concerned that something might fall through the cracks."

So Molesa had his team contact the CPS caseworker and the people involved to make sure someone had come to check on the children. If nothing had been done, a deputy would conduct an investigation.

"I just need to know that someone is addressing this particular allegation, this situation, in a timely fashion."

Ten months after Navajo County started to check all calls that came into CPS, the Department of Economic Security revealed more than 6,000 cases statewide since 2009 were never investigated.

"My initial reaction was, that's what happens when government tries to do too much," said Molesa.

Since Molesa started the new review process, only two of the 300 calls that have come in didn't have a caseworker respond prior to a deputy going out.

"Statistically that's a great number. But on a human level that's one too many," said Molesa.

The Department of Economic Security has yet to respond to NCSO program.

Navajo County is still waiting to find out from the Governor if any of those uninvestigated 6,000 CPS cases fall within their jurisdiction.

While they only have four investigators to cover the county, they are ready to help put eyes on every child.

 

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