Arizona CPS update: Arizona Child Welfare panel hears from new head Charles Flanagan

PHOENIX - On Monday, the new head and director of Child Safety and Family services spoke directly to a Child Protective Services oversight committee to give an update on his progress.

Director Charles Flanagan stated considering the 6,600 CPS cases that were labeled "not investigated," the 11,000 currently part of the backlog, and the current case load, it will be a year before anyone see a significant progress.

“It will take at least a year to fully train new employees,” said Flanagan.

The governor just approved funding to hire 192 child welfare positions, but the agency is still working on filling the positions that were approved during last fiscal year.

Some jobs are just getting posted.

Flanagan says he's working as fast as he can to hire more people.

“It’s important that we get more staff to help with the caseload. The caseload is what lead to poor decision making and cases ultimately getting ignored,” said Flanagan.

Last year, it was uncovered that 6,600 cases were labeled not investigated.

Since the discovery, five top CPS officials have been placed on leave pending a Department of Public Safety  investigation.

Sources tell ABC15, Deborah Harper, Tracey Everitt, Jan Leineweber, Michelle Parker, Janet Sabol are the employees on leave and all five have attorneys to represent them.

In an April 2013 interview with Harper and Everitt, both talked about how a "SWAT Team" put in place was supposed to be a safety net to make sure children don't slip through the cracks.

Flanagan called they system a cover-up to protect the system.

“The perception was that CPS was focused on protecting their existing structure, protecting themselves from criticism and hide information that was negative. For example you won't find a report that will talk about it.You will find reports that talk about alternative assessments. That's hiding the fact that you aren't investigating cases by making it seem like there was some sort of investigation," said Flanagan.

Director Flanagan has since dismantled the SWAT team, moving those staff members to the field to help ease the workload.

He also told the oversight committee he plans on creating an independent team that will review all cases to make sure policy and procedures are followed.

Flanagan is in the process of scheduling employee forums so he can meet with caseworkers and staff to make sure they understand his mission of creating a transparent organization that puts the safety of children first.

In addition, he wants to change the CHILDS database that is currently in place to put cases into the system.

“It’s an old system, it’s inefficient and it takes away from investigating cases,” said Flanagan.

The system causes problems starting from the crisis hotline and to the field investigations.”

“People at the call center first take notes on a note pad, which takes around 15 minutes. Then they have to type that information into a word program, which is not connected to the CHILDS database. Then they have to input the information to the CHILDS database. If a mistake is made, then the worker has to start over.”

He believes this has caused the call center to drop 26 percent of the calls.

Caseworkers also don’t have access to the database out in the field, so they have to come back to the office to write their reports. Flanagan says it takes time away from investigations.

“Replacing the database will take at least four years and will cost millions of dollars,” said Flanagan.

Flanagan is also working on a getting his administrative team together. The delay is partly because of the ongoing DPS investigation into why cases were ignored.

There is no timeline as of yet as to when that investigation will be complete.

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