Arizona CPS agency overworked and understaffed, according to CARE team report

Lack of training, an overwhelmed and understaffed agency, and bad decision making are some of the reasons why more than 6,000 cases of reported child abuse went uninvestigated , according to a report released Friday.
 
The 50-page report , from the Child Advocate Response Examination panel created by Gov. Jan Brewer, said that all 6,554 reports of child abuse that went uninvestigated have now been assigned to an investigator.
 
The report also states that over 60 percent of the cases are being actively worked on, and more than 400 children have been removed from homes to date due to "safety concerns."
 
The report says that 672 cases have been closed, meaning the cases do not require any continued monitoring or services. There have been 765 cases labeled "investigation closures," which means the report has been closed, but continued monitoring and services are required.
 
The report also outlines a list of issues, as well recommendations to help ensure this type of situation doesn't happen again.
 
 
According to the report, a multitude of "varied, complex and inter-related" issues helped create a domino-effect that allow thousands of cases of child abuse to go uninvestigated.
 
The root cause of the issue, according to the report, is that there are too many cases and not enough investigators to handle the demand. This lack of balance led to policies not being followed.
 
The report also puts blame on a lack of training for case workers and supervisors, as well as a lack of clear performance standards.
 
In 2013, the child services hotline received 3,200 calls each week, according to the report. It also acknowledged that some of these calls can be repeat callers as the agency averaged a 26 percent abandoned call rate.
 
These issues contributed to high employee turnover, caseload backlog, long wait times and abandoned calls on the child abuse hotline, according to the report.
 
The report said that 192 full-time employees are capable of handling 7,680 hours of investigative work per week. However, with 848 new cases being reported each week, that requires 10,000 hours of investigative reports, a 2,326-hour deficiency.
 
The agency is required to respond to 100 percent of reports.
 
The Arizona CARE team recommends that Brewer develop an agency that is "laser-focused" on the core mission of child safety, increase transparency, and have child safety specialists undergo investigator training through a law enforcement program at a local community college. The state would pay for that training, the report stated.
 
The report goes on to say that the new child services agency should work closely with the foster care community and experts to continue to develop improvement strategies, create a rigorous inspections bureau to better "quality control," as well as reform the call center/hotline process with a better equipped staff.
 
The report also notes that law enforcement is a "critical and underused" partner and that developing relationships with other law enforcement agencies, social services and OCWI agency specialists will offer the best results for ensuring child safety.
 
 
The governor appointed Charles Flanagan as director of the new Child Safety and Family Services agency. Flanagan said he will start putting together his administrative team once the Department of Public Safety releases its administrative investigation.
 
 
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